Review: Onwards & Upwards, The Wardrobe Theatre
One of my favourite things about watching local family theatre is the opportunity for the actors to interact with the children in the audience, and to really make them feel part of the show. In the intimate space of The Wardrobe Theatre, in Old Market Assembly, we were greeted by the friendly cast members of INKBLOC Ensemble as soon as the doors opened. They informed us that we would soon be going on a journey with them - and what a journey it was!
We first meet Luna, an inventor and fixer, deep in her underground world of Downblow. She gleefully receives all the broken bits and bobs that are sent to her via a chute from Uptop, mending everything from cassette tapes (remember them?!) to smoke alarms. Despite seeming content in her role as a fixer, Luna lives a solitary life, and Alison Cowling does a great job of portraying the shy, sweet girl who lacks the confidence to explore the world above her head.
But when a broken compass arrives in her workshop and regales her with stories of great expeditions up mountains, across seas, and through the skies, Luna gradually realises that, by staying underground, she may be missing out on more than she ever realised. Can she find the courage to venture above ground, and attend her first ever party?
Toby Robertshaw injects great humour and energy into the show as The Compass. He narrates the tale of three incredible female explorers as Claire Crawford takes us with her on their journeys. Clever use of the set means we're suddenly leaving Luna's workshop behind, as we travel with Claire up a tall snowy mountain. She cleverly uses puppetry to portray Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the summit of Everest. Then we learn about Kay Cottee, the first female sailor to solo circumnavigate the globe, and finally Amelia Earhart - the first woman to fly across the atlantic, and to try to fly around the world.
Each adventure story is accompanied by some beautiful live music and catchy songs, making this a real feel-good show for little ones. The storytelling is pitched at just the right level for under-11s and despite the fact it purely showcases tales of girl power, it was enjoyed by the boys watching as much as their female counterparts. And as the show ended, it was lovely to see more interaction with the young audience as they were invited to get involved and join the actors on the stage.
Verdict: My son and I left the theatre with a bit of a spring in our step, having been thoroughly entertained and educated by this charming family show (did I also mention there's a very cute pet rat?!) This may have been the first production I've seen by INKBLOC Ensemble in Bristol but hopefully it won't be the last.
Onwards & Upwards is playing at The Wardrobe Theatre until 1st June. You can find out more information and buy tickets here.
Disclaimer: I was offered two complimentary tickets for Onwards & Upwards in return for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. Photo credit: INKBLOC Ensemble.