Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Tom Brennan: 1972 – The Future Of Sex

By | Published on Thursday 7 April 2016


When our reviewer saw highly regarded theatre troupe The Wardrobe Ensemble’s 2015 Edinburgh show ‘1972 – The Future Of Sex’, she was blown away by the play, awarding it it full marks and praising its sparkling script.
Naturally, when I heard the production was headed Shoreditch Town Hall-wards, I was keen to chat to the group about it. I spoke to the company’s Tom Brennan, who furnished me with some more detail about the piece.

CM: Tell us about ‘1972 – The Future Of Sex’ – What happens in the show? Where does the narrative take us?
TB: Without giving too much away, ‘1972: The Future of Sex’ tells the tale of three couples attempting to hook up on one night in 1972. It also tells the tale of Anton, a young man exploring his identity. These events take place on the evening that David Bowie first appeared on ‘Top of The Pop’ as Ziggy Stardust. The stories are fairly simple, but the way they are told is quite unique. We jump backwards and forwards in time, we give historical context, and we explode emotional moments physically through the ensemble.

CM: What themes does it explore?
TB: The show explores sex, gender, power, identity, and the impact of historical context upon your sexual identity.

CM: Who is this suitable for, given the subject matter? Is the sexual content explicit, or is it more about the personalities involved?
TB: In terms of explicit content, there is one moment of tasteful male nudity. We weren’t especially interested in the act of sex in isolation, but what sex means in context. What impact does discovering your sexuality have on your relationship to self?

CM: Who created the show? Is it a devised piece? What inspired it?
TB: The show is written and devised by eleven people.

Originally, we wanted to make a show about sex because it’s something we all have opinions on and experience of. However, once we started rehearsals, it became clear that a conversation about shagging is also a conversation about a whole host of other prickly subjects: power, gender, choice, representation, equality, identity and oppression, just to name a few. We decided to use the lens of the seventies to examine the topic because as well as being a pivotal moment in sexual history (a seemingly consequence-free era post-the pill and pre-AIDS) it also gave us the distance to comment on sex and sexuality today. It also gave us a really great soundtrack.

I feel as though ‘1972: The Future of Sex’ is an origin story. Many sexual cultures that seem fairly mainstream now were being born in that era. Bowie’s first appearance on ‘Top of The Pops’ paved the way for a new kind of androgynous cultural identity. Similarly, in the early 70s, porn was making the transition from the cinema to the home with the invention of VHS. Our generation on the other hand has seen porn’s journey online.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about The Wardrobe Ensemble? How did the company come together? What are your aims and ambitions?
TB: Well, unlike many theatre companies, we were thrown together. We were all members of The Bristol Old Vic Young Company and were offered a year of training in exchange for our skills as workshop leaders and assistants. The culmination of that year was a short run in Bristol Old Vic’s studio where we premiered our first show ‘Riot’. We took that show to Edinburgh, and the rest is history. So, where many companies have come together to make work with a particular set of aims, we’ve discovered our principles along the way. As a company, we’ve got a range of tastes and theatrical skills so when we come together styles tend to smash up against each other to create something unique. Increasingly, we’re interested in dissecting the 21st century experience through energetic theatrical languages and intimate human stories.

CM: Can you tell us about some of your previous shows? How do you put them together?
TB: We’ve been making work like this as a company for five years now. The Wardrobe Ensemble are all talented theatre-makers with their own interests and tastes, so when we come together the work often feels eclectic and full of variety. We like making theatre that is fast-paced, layered, energetic, intellectually stimulating, full of heart and enjoyable. We like crashing high and low. For example, in ‘Riot’, we used conventions of horror films to make political statements about consumerism. Similarly in ‘1972: The Future of Sex’ there are references to Botticelli and Bowie, and we discuss ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ alongside ‘Deep Throat’.

CM: What happens to this show after Shoreditch Town Hall?
TB: We tour the UK. See this page here for more info.

CM: What other projects do you have planned?
TB: We’re developing a few new shows, none of which we can reveal at the current moment. We’re developing work for younger audiences and a larger scale show for adults. I’m psyched to start working on new stuff.

The Wardrobe Ensemble’s ‘1972: The Future of Sex’ is on at Shoreditch Town Hall from 12-23 April. For more information and to book tickets, see the venue website here.

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