Writer: Tom Brennan, Tom Crosley-Thorne, Tom England, Emily Greenslade, Jesse Jones, Kerry Lovell, Jesse Meadows, Helena Middleton, James Newton, Ben Vardy, Edythe Woolley
Director: Tom Brennan and Jesse Jones
Reviewer: Fergus Morgan
1972: a year of escalating trouble in Northern Ireland, record unemployment, and London’s first pride march. It was a time when young people everywhere were throwing off the shackles of a sexually repressive society and falling into each other’s arms. It was a time when an entire generation was – as The Wardrobe Ensemble’s Ben Vardy eloquently puts it – rampantly pursuing the pleasures of sex ‘with a contraceptive pill in one hand and an acid tab in the other’. Or not.
1972: The Future Of Love is The Wardrobe Ensemble’s comic take on a time when beliefs in sexual freedom and gender equality collided with prim and proper stiff upper lip Englishness. When shy, idealistic teenagers were not rolling on top of each other in the street, but fighting their own polite battles against the morals of their still-respected parents. It’s a glorious concept, and one you don’t have to be over 50 to fully appreciate (although it probably helps); after all, everyone can relate to that crippling, adolescent, pre-coital awkwardness. Everyone British at any rate.
What’s special about 1972 though, is that the teenage butterflies it nudges into life are joined in flight by gales of laughter and a genuine profundity born of the knowledge that something special did happen in the early seventies, even if it was not exactly what the pop songs recorded, and that the liberties we enjoy today owe something to the enlightenment of that generation. In among all that, there is a more sober comment on how expectation, both sexual and societal, is rarely lived up to, and how innocent, idea-driven frolics can soon turn sour.
The show is a free-flowing montage of four stories: feminist university lecturer Rich (Vardy) and fiercely intellectual Christine (Kerry Lovell) are unable to keep their hands off each other, repressed nerd Anna (Jesse Meadows) finds herself falling for über-cool Tessa (Emily Greenslade), Martin and Penny (Tom England and Helena Middleton) are nervously contemplating having sex for the first time, and Antony (James Newton) – Tony to his friends, Anton to himself – is terrified of coming out to his family.
All four storylines splice seamlessly among each other, as all but one progresses slowly but surely towards the bedroom. Once there, things get a vibrantly expressionist, but then they can’t actually get down and do it on the stage can they? Throughout most scenes, uninvolved cast members narrate the action and voice the thoughts of characters: a neat device that is simultaneously hilarious and resonant, a subtle echo of the social diktats that are slowly broken free from.
The cast, to Tom Crosley-Thorne’s unabashedly funky accompaniment, give it their all in a riot of whirls, twirls and awkward conversations. There is good work from the entire ensemble, but Meadows and Newton are particularly impressive as the endearingly mousy Anna and the quietly flamboyant Anton respectively, with Vardy being an effervescent presence throughout. Tom Brennan and Jesse Jones deserve huge credit for their imaginative direction and fluid choreography, as does Georgia Coleman for her nostalgic design, a riotous mashup of extravagant flares and drab, brown wallpaper.
Reviewed on 27 May 2016 | Image: Contributed