Theatre / Reviews

Review: Onwards & Upwards, Wardrobe Theatre

By martin booth, Wednesday May 29, 2019

If you are parents of young girls, the chances are high that you have copies of books such as Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World and Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

These stories of inspirational females now form the basis of Onwards & Upwards, a show from INKBLOC Ensemble playing at the Wardrobe Theatre this half term.

We meet Kay Cottee, an Australian sailor, who was the first woman to perform a non-stop unassisted circumnavigation of the world. (You haven’t heard anything until you hear song lyrics that rhyme 1988 with circumnavigate)

We also meet Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mount Everest; and Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

The purpose of these encounters – with a step ladder standing in for both a boat and a snow-capped mountain, and children delighted with paper aeroplanes being thrown into the audience and the chance to make their own after the show had ended – was to help the timid Luna gain the confidence needed to attend a birthday party.

Alison Cowling deserves much of the credit for this show, which entranced my four-year daughter but left my eight-year-old daughter unimpressed (the upper age recommendation of 11 is a bit optimistic).

Cowling is composer, musical director, writer, producer and plays Luna in a Borrowers-style underground world where it is her job to fix objects that nobody else can fix.

Ably assisted by Toby Robertshaw as Compass, Luna meets the women all played by Claire Crawford, who also brings to life a friendly rat called Mo.

Directed by Helena Middleton and produced by Claire Crawford, Onwards & Upwards is big on inspiration, bravery and history; but lacking in an engaging storyline to keep children hooked.

It is still a perfect treat for younger theatregoers, however, especially female explorers looking for more fantastically great women who they can emulate in helping to change the world.

Onwards & Upwards is at the Wardrobe Theatre until June 1. For tickets and more information, visit

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