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

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

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Verdict
An energetic mix of comedy and melodrama presented in cinematic style by the Wardrobe Ensemble
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