Edgar and The Land of Lost

Exeter isn’t close to Falmouth, it’s a fair old drive of a wintry Monday evening and no ordinary trip to the theatre. But the Wardrobe Ensemble are no ordinary theatre company, Riot remains one of the most enjoyable pieces of theatre I have seen in years, filled with ideas and great performances. On hearing that the company were bringing a winter show to The Bikeshed, Exeter for the second year running, I was determined not to miss it.

And what a special venue the Bikeshed is. A beautiful, perfectly sized space, teeming with creativity and really exciting programming. It’s a cultural gem in the South West, with some great things coming up in 2015 (Blackfish’s Alaska and Pipeline’s Streaming, two of Cornwall’s finest theatrical exports, and not to be missed).

While the venue is very special, and worked wonderfully for the show, Edgar and The Land of Lost could be performed anywhere and it would be magical. A string of superb performances from the ensemble cast bring the quiet village of Winton, and its inhabitants, to life. We meet the stoic Edgar, wonderfully played by Charlie Coldfield, and are taken to his home; dimly lit, quiet, and punctuated only by the television’s scintillating winter cricket commentary (thank you, Tom Brennan). It’s dull, and no place for his young niece Peewee, immaculately realised by a wide-eyed and sparkling Emily Greenslade, to spend Christmas.

After a trip into town, where Peewee’s late aunt’s bracelet is mislaid (joining many other missing objects belonging to the townsfolk), the drab colours of Winton are left behind. A visit to the bureaucratic Lost Property takes our intrepid pairing down to the mysterious and magical Land of Lost.

Having defined sleepy and monochrome, the Wardrobe Ensemble flawlessly orchestrate an explosion of colour and creativity, with a series of joyous and visually stunning scenes. Here the design comes into its own, and Ruth Webb’s work is immaculate. The set bursts into life, with surprises behind every door, and superb, surreal costumes (think Vic Reeves Big Night Out, with high production values) complete this strange land. Rachel Duthie’s lighting is also perfect: vivid but subtle, and working with the minimal set to realise this vibrant and exciting world.

The ensemble performances are wonderful to watch, and it is remarkable to think that this group had not all worked together previously. Roisin Kelly deftly switches between her innumerable roles, Hanora Kamen’s villainous Perdita (reminiscent of a black-haired Jill Tyrell) is a joy, and Tom Brennan’s smooth, jazzy cat will live long in the memory. I was one of a small audience, but this was not to the show’s detriment: I felt like one of a privileged few, wrapped up in a children’s story crafted just for us.

Jesse Jones and Helena Middleton’s direction is superb, and they have created a piece that is perfectly performed, visually stimulating and beautifully told: heartwarming, funny, and a tender exploration of loss and love. Brennan’s music, faultlessly executed by the ensemble, is a great soundscape to this perfect, modern-day fairytale. It deserves audiences beyond the Bikeshed, and I hope Edgar and the Land of Lost can be found again.

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