News: The Wardrobe Ensemble announces the winners of their £10,000 theatre commission

As part of The Theatre on the Downs, The Wardrobe Ensemble have announced the winners of their brand-new commission of for artists based in South West England to develop two new pieces of theatre via an open call. Hannah Kumari, performer, writer and puppeteer has received the full funding for her extraordinary, experimental show Spinning Wheel, alongside an additional £3,000 for Brook Tate for his unforgettable biographical play, Birthmarked, both of which will debut at The Theatre On The Downs this September.

Having received funding from Arts Council England for The Theatre on the Downs, The Wardrobe Ensemble created the commission to enable select South West artists to keep doing what they do best. The panel which consisted of Jesse Jones and Emily Greenslade from The Wardrobe Ensemble, Aisha Ali, vocal artist, cultural and inclusion producer, composer, improviser and artistic director of Kiota, and Jay Zorenti-Nakhid, Resident Assistant Director at Tobacco Factory Theatres were looking for new and progressive shows and were staggered by the sheer volume of talent. Alongside the commission, Kumari and Tate will also receive one- to-one sessions with members of The Wardrobe Ensemble to support them in their next steps.

The Wardrobe Ensemble said: ‘After the last 18 months (and the ten years we have spent as a touring company), we understand how vital financial and venue support is for artists to continue making and presenting work. We felt so privileged to read all the applications and we were blown away by how much talent and how many good ideas there are in the South West! Hannah Kumari is an incredible artist and we are so lucky to be able to support her – we can’t wait to see Spinning Wheel. We are also thrilled to be able to offer Brook a mini commission as well. Birthmarked will be an amazing show. The Theatre on the Downs has been a wild ride so far but we are excited to continue to delight audiences with our extraordinary programme of theatre shows and these two new special productions.’

Commissioned by The Wardrobe Ensemble and in association with Blind Summit, Hannah Kumari will present Spinning Wheel – an interdisciplinary examination of sobriety and the rule book. A weird and wonderful peek at the semi-secret world of Alcoholics Anonymous, through the eyes of three women who might not belong there.

Hannah Kumari says, This commission, so generously created by The Wardrobe Ensemble, will allow me to collaborate with a creative team on my new show Spinning Wheel throughout September, and receive mentoring from a company whose work and practice I hugely admire. It gives me the time and space not only to develop my creative practice and ideas but also my self-producing skills, collaborating with more artists and creating work on a larger scale. It offers me the chance to perform previews of my new work at Theatre on The Downs, which will be invaluable to its ongoing development. I hope I can make a meaningful contribution to the cultural landscape of Bristol and the South West, and inspire young global majority artists that there is a place for them and their stories in the region.

In addition to the £10,000 commission, The Wardrobe Ensemble also provided an unplanned mini commission to support the brilliant show Birthmarked by Brook Tate which tells the tale of his own life experiences growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness until he was excommunicated at the age of 23 for being gay. Weaving in music to tell his personal story, the show will be comprised of 10 songs that focus on Tate’s experiences. Honest, funny, and uplifting, the show explore the themes of indoctrination, rejection, suppressed and expressed sexuality, and the rebuilding of self-worth and a life after you’ve lost everything you believed to be true.

Brooke Tate said: “I’m preLy dang blown away by the support and encouragement I’ve got from the Wardrobe Ensemble. I’m so grateful, quite nervous, but overall SO friggin’ excited to get going with this project. Super super chuffed. Having a bunch of people believe in me and this idea is such an incredible feeling. So yes. Ta. Very. Much!”

More shows have also been announced to join The Wardrobe Ensemble’s 10th anniversary celebration. Drag queen and party princess Topsie Redfern is getting back to her roots with Topsie Redfern’s Crystal Balls, an exploration of queer acceptance, Crystal Balls and her personal journey from West-End Star to drag artist. One man show Borderline, travels the neurological pathways of an everyman attempting to make sense of, live and cope with his mental health as it swings from delusions of godliness to the end of the world and right back around to falling in love in IT support. An unforgettable one-woman play about the 20th Century African American experience, Woke by Apphia Campbell tells the story of two women from different decades involved in the struggle for civil rights. There Was a Little Girl by Millie Wood Downie is a witty, comedic and truthful insight into growing up opposing the female narrative. Supported by The Wardrobe Ensemble and Tobacco Factory Theatres, Ad Infinitum’s latest work-in-progress, Beautiful Evil Things is a breathtaking adventure about one woman who unearths the epic stories of powerful Greek legends.

The Theatre on the Downs is kindly supported by The Wardrobe Theatre, Arts Council England, Backstage Trust and WECA. Ticketing in association with Bristol Old Vic.

For full programme listings, please visit The Theatre on the Downs website: https:// theatreonthedowns.co.uk/

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