Get our free email newsletter with just one click

South Western review at Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol – ‘cinematic style’

Scene from South Western at Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol. Photo: Chelsey Cliff
by -

South Western, the latest anarchic offering from Bristol-based collective the Wardrobe Ensemble, is labelled a spaghetti western, but feels more like a Cornish pasty and cider road movie.

Director Tom Brennan and his six-strong cast hijack a raft of cinematic techniques to plot a journey of revenge from the back streets of Bristol to Land`s End, poking fun en route at many and varied regional quirks.

Our guide for this devised journey is a cod American professor of film, played by Ben Vardy, who organises the hilarious, if frequently dark, narrative by way of celluloid-style close-ups and black outs. These are made impressively movie-like by Matthew Graham`s staccato lighting and Ben Grant`s shot gun sound.

The Thelma and Louise riding the West Country range in this case are combative heroine Mae (played by Helena Middleton) and heart-of-gold drifter Anne (Jesse Meadows), who bond in unlikely fashion in the search for the killer of Mae`s father.

Along the way they encounter West Country myths ranging from Arthurian legend to Dartmoor hounds, ahead of a dark climax straight out of High Noon.

The West Country odyssey introduces such sure-fire comic figures as a jobsworth ticket inspector and a hapless policeman, while there is also the occasional nod to mythology and regional heritage.

The Wardrobe Ensemble always produces intelligent devised works – including last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit Education, Education, Education – and here the company demonstrates its skill at combining visual humour with challenging storytelling.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
An energetic mix of comedy and melodrama presented in cinematic style by the Wardrobe Ensemble