Written by Sam Holcroft – Current Writer-In-Residence at the National Theatre Studio; Pearson Playwright in Residence at the Traverse Theatre (2009-10)and winner of the Tom Erhardt Award for Up-and-coming writer (2009).
Directed by Nikki Disney.
I saw this play on the 8th March at Lakeside Arts Centre as part of the ‘National Theatre Connections 2014’ programme.
The play begins in an old museum where a 15th century wardrobe is on display. The wardrobe contains the memories and secrets from periods of history including:
· The War of the Roses
· The Civil War
· The Plague
· Victorian child labour
· The Start of WWI
The young people in the play use the wardrobe to hide “…from the barrage of reality outside” while it provides a living history style experience for the audience, featuring characters such as:
- · Henry VIII’s mother and aunt
- · A tutor teaching a young boy Latin and discovering the joys of bananas
- · Servant girls who want to become actresses but who fall victim to plague
- · A Victorian chimney sweep and mill worker who compete to see who has the most work-injuries
- · WWI sweethearts who purchased the wardrobe as a wedding present and stage the wedding in the wardrobe itself
During the play, the audience learns more about the secret within the walls of the wardrobe, its past and the personalities of the characters within.
The artforms involved in this production were drama, comedy and sound effects, particularly battle sounds.
Members of the cast took turns to perform as museum caretakers who open and close the wardrobe doors between scenes to show time has passed and allow the actors to change over smoothly. Two of the cast members were also backstage crew providing hair and make-up and translation for an impressive scene entirely acted in French.
I thought the tone for this play varied greatly with emotions ranging from drama, fear, terror, sadness, humour and romance. I found the ending particularly thought-provoking when a caretaker finds the marriage certificate for the WWI sweethearts and a poppy falls to the floor in the centre of the stage in front of the wardrobe. A spotlight focuses on it. Some of the historical characters return joined by modern day characters from 20th and 21st century and they pass the poppy to one another as they come onstage. The scene ends with a modern day teenage boy taking a picture of the wardrobe with his phone and attaching the poppy to his jacket. I feel that this play encourages people to remember all eras of history.
My favourite aspect of the play was the scene with the young boy and his tutor discussing the banana and which gender it would be in Latin “…feminine or masculine…”
I also loved the costumes that were hired for the play from Nottingham Community Wardrobe.
I can’t criticise this play as there was literally nothing wrong and you could tell that everyone in the cast and production team worked very hard on it.
I would recommend this for anyone who likes original theatre, especially historical theatre. I feel it would work well performed to schools and educational groups; this could also be adapted for all ages.