N&N Festival, Made My Wardrobe dressed review: ‘Not for the faint-hearted’

Made My Wardrobe dressed. Picture: Supplied by Norfolk and Norwich Festival

Made My Wardrobe dressed. Picture: Supplied by Norfolk and Norwich Festival - Credit: Supplied by Norfolk and Norwich Festival

This spell-binding but divisive show was one of 64 at last year's Edinburgh Fringe to be part of the #Me Too movement. And now it's part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival.

It's a powerful evocation of the emotions that follow a serious event: the night Lydia Higginson was stripped and gang raped.

At the time of her ordeal, Lydia was a costume maker. She reacts by shutting herself away and making costumes for her three best friends from school. We see her recreate this, spotlit with her sewing machine.

Around her, sit her friends.

It feels like some kind of ceremony. She sews the clothes, they put them on. Each outfit expresses a different aspect of their womanhood. There's a clown, a diva, a party girl.

But although the clothes fit, they don't look comfortable.

These are outfits that belong to girls who are not sure of themselves and in different ways, they deliberately invite male attention.

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But they do serve a purpose, while they are wearing them, each of the friends finds a way to use their own creativity to help release some of the trauma.

Lydia's ordeal becomes a right of passage for all of them. But it marks a loss of innocence that goes beyond what most encounter. And the bitterness and cruelty it unleashes on stage divides its audience.

I should say, that as we enter we are told that we will not be allowed to leave. It dawns on me half way through why this is.

The paradox reveals all, as Shakespeare says. A show called dressed that performs a strip-tease of the emotions is a shocking kind of titillation.

We are stuck there watching, whether we want to or not. And our involuntary voyeurism puts us in a similarly vulnerable state to the one Lydia was in herself.

So this is not, as the dialogue suggests, simply about a girl finding empowerment. It's an ultimatum that forces us into her shoes.

Theatre not for the faint-hearted.