Reviewed by Flossie Waite & Luke Billingham
Reviewed at The Studio at the Festival Theatre, as part of Edinburgh International Children’s Festival
For ages 2-6
The star of Things to Wear is a large bag. It has all the qualities of Mary Poppins’ carpet bag: a seemingly bottomless capacity – our first surprise is a performer appearing from its depths – and an apparently endless sum of contents: just when you think the final sock has surfaced, a pink silk coat emerges. But, unlike the magical nanny’s patterned, flowery holdall, the bag in Things to Wear is of the brown paper variety. It’s a fitting choice: unlike similar productions, the show is not about luxuriating in the items themselves – it doesn’t delight in textures and cuts and movement in the way that, for instance, Second Hand Dance’s Getting Dressed does. The clothes in Things to Wear are just things to wear, but this refreshingly functional approach to the sartorial doesn’t mean the show lacks richness or depth.
A ripple of recent shows about clothes suggests either a zeitgeist moment or that it’s the children’s theatre equivalent of a fitted white shirt: a timeless staple. It’s possible to tease a lot out of these productions. Like Tamsyn Russell Dance’s Go Get ‘Em, Kid, in Things to Wear performers Susanne Schyns and Michael Myer capture a sense of domesticity and intimacy, as they navigate the stage sharing one pair of trousers or button themselves into one coat. Like Getting Dressed, Things to Wear seems to say something about gendered expectations of clothes: Myer wears a pink coat, Schyns wears a tie, and the two are happy to exchange every item. Things to Wear also has some of the quirky bizarreness of Colette Sadler-Stammer Productions’ We Are The Monsters – are those shoes that rise out of the bag resting on stockinged feet, or besocked hands? – keeping the audience constantly asking questions and consistently on their toes. But all these shows about clothes can equally be enjoyed without putting in much interpretative work at all. Things to Wear – like others in this sub-genre – is also a crowd-pleasing celebration of having fun and being silly: watching adults put a dress on upside down or put one leg each into a pair of trousers never gets old. However it’s viewed, this accessible material, ripe for playful exploration, will always be in fashion.
Children’s Theatre Reviews exists to help plug the gap in criticism and writing about theatre for young audiences. It is run entirely voluntarily, and needs support to continue covering and supporting the sector. For more information and to help give children’s theatre the voice it deserves, please visit our Patreon page.