Cast Announced for Bristol Old Vic's new Christmas show with The Wardrobe Ensemble

7 Oct 2021
Photo credit: Top L-R: Tom England, Dorian Simpson, Kerry Lovell Bottom L-R: Katja Quist, James Newton, Jesse Meadows

Robin Hood: Legend of the Forgotten Forest

Directed by Tom Brennan and Helena Middleton
Music by Tom Crosley-Thorne
Set & Costume Design by Anna Orton
Lighting Design by Joshua Gadsby
Sound Design by Beth Duke


Bristol Old Vic today announced the cast for its brand-new Christmas production, teaming up with one of the city’s most celebrated companies; multi-award-winning The Wardrobe Ensemble. Robin Hood: The Legend of the Forgotten Forest is a fresh spin on the legendary Christmas favourite and will be the next chapter in Bristol Old Vic’s long-running and hugely popular series of blockbuster Christmas family shows.

The cast includes Wardrobe Ensemble founders Kerry Lovell (Robin Hood), Tom England (Will Scarlet), James Newton (Sheriff of Nottingham), and Jesse Meadows (Friar Tuck). They are joined by Dorian Simpson in the role of JJ and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduate (and Peter O’Toole Prizewinner) Katja Quist as Marian. Music is composed and performed live by Tom Crosley-Thorne.

When a 21st century kid slips through a crack in the time-space continuum, they crash into the middle of an epic fight between good and evil. It’s Sherwood Forest. The 12th century. An uneasy time of cunning thieves, dastardly villains and karaoke-singing monks. When the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham sets in motion his vicious plan for ultimate power, it’s up to Robin Hood and the Merry Crew to pull off their toughest mission yet. Can they defeat the Sheriff before it’s too late and the forest is lost forever?

Robin Hood.. joins the long tradition at Bristol Old Vic of creating theatrical magic at Christmas – working with the most exciting talent in Bristol. It’s a recipe that has paid off; with West End transfers such as Tom Morris’ Swallows and Amazons and Sally Cookson’s Peter Pan, to box office record-breakers like Lee Lyford’s A Christmas Carol, Bristol Old Vic family shows have always been the theatre’s opportunity to showcase the brilliance of local talent and share it with the wider world too.

The Wardrobe Ensemble met in September 2010 while training together on Bristol Old Vic’s Made in Bristol project. They have been touring nationally and internationally, making work together ever since, including RIOT, 33 and their co-production with Complicité, The Last of The Pelican Daughters. Recent West End success with Education, Education, Education (Stage Award for Best Ensemble and a Fringe First) brought them national attention while their work for young families such as Eloise and the Curse of the Golden Whisk (The Bike Shed), Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain (Bristol Old Vic), and The Star Seekers (National Theatre), showed their instinctive knack for finding the joy and anarchy in theatre for children of all ages.

This summer they created a new pop-up theatre venue in Bristol – The Theatre on The Downs which garnered huge acclaim and brought together some of the region’s top theatre talent for two months of celebration. The Wardrobe Ensemble premiered a new show, WINNERS, as well as hosting live performance from FullRogue, Living Spit, Action Hero and Ad Infinitum. The venue welcomed 6550 audience members and hosted 34 companies over Aug and Sep, and The Wardrobe Ensemble also awarded a £10,000 commission to Frome-based artist Hannah Kumari, and a £3,000 commission to theatre-maker Brook Tate.

Bristol Old Vic Artistic Director, and Christmas super-fan, Tom Morris said:  
“We love Christmas at Bristol Old Vic. Since the golden age of King Street Pantos in the 1870s, people of every age and from every part of Bristol have come to the theatre together, often with three or four generations in a single booking. This creates the most wonderful atmosphere throughout the building, and it’s inspiring for artists too, who create some of their most magical work. Two years ago, Lee Lyford and Gwyneth Herbert created our wonderful Christmas Carol. A few years before, Sally Cookson stole all our hearts with her magical Peter Pan. And this year we are delighted to be working with the dazzling Wardrobe Ensemble to bring you a perfect family Christmas retelling of Robin Hood. Prepare for a night out so overflowing with joy you’ll still be chucking about it in June!”

Hannah Smith, Producer for The Wardrobe Ensemble said:
“Christmas shows at Bristol Old Vic are some of our first memories of theatre, so being given the chance to create a new one is an absolute dream come true. We are so excited to get into the rehearsal room and get started. We've got an amazing team of old and new collaborators all working their socks off to make Robin Hood.. a Christmas show for the ages.” 

And to make sure we cater for everyone this Christmas, this production will include two guaranteed socially-distanced performances each week for those who need them.  

Tom England 
-Will Scarlet
Tom is a freelance artist, theatre maker, and project coordinator based in the West Midlands. For The Wardrobe Ensemble he has devised and performed in WINNERSThe Last of the Pelican DaughtersSouth WesternEducation, Education, Education and 1972: The Future of Sex. Outside of the company he has recently starred in films Repeat and Cosmos. 

Kerry Lovell – Robin Hood 
For the company Kerry has devised and performed in WINNERSThe Last of the Pelican DaughtersSouth WesternThe Wind in the Willows, Education Education Education, Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain, Eloise and the Curse of the Golden Whisk, 1972: The Future of Sex, 33, Eliza and the Wild Swans, and RIOT. Kerry has performed with Myrtle Theatre Company, Fairground Theatre Company and featured in Traces, a short dance theatre film with Twisted Theatre Company. She has worked extensively with the Bristol Old Vic Young Company, delivering workshops and assisting shows.

Jesse Meadows – Friar Tuck
Jesse is a Bristol-based performer and theatre-maker and core member/founder of The Wardrobe Ensemble with whom she has toured with nationally and internationally. For the company Jesse has devised and performed in WINNERSThe Great GatsbyThe Last of the Pelican DaughtersThe Wind in the Willows, South Western, Education Education Education, Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain, Eloise and the Curse of the Golden Whisk, 1972: The Future of Sex, 33, Eliza and the Wild Swans, The Star Seekers, The Time Seekers, The Deep Sea Seekers and RIOT. Jesse's other recent deviser/performer credits include Tea Time for Oxford Playhouse, and Winnie the Witch for Pegasus Theatre, Oxford. She also co-founded and until 2019 was Co-Artistic Director of The Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol which reopened in Old Market in December 2015.

James Newton – Sheriff of Nottingham
James is an actor, theatremaker, musician and facilitator with over a decade’s experience working in devised theatre. For The Wardrobe Ensemble, James’ credits as a performer/deviser include WINNERS, The Last of the Pelican DaughtersEducation, Education, Education and 1972: The Future of Sex. Outside of the company, James has been fortunate to work with theatre practitioners including Simon McBurney, Nigel and Louise and mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, and in 2019 he appeared as Standish Treadwell in The Unicorn’s adaptation of Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon. He is currently studying towards an MA in Anthropology (Material and Visual Culture) at UCL.

Katja Quist - Marian
Katja graduated from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 2020 where she was awarded The Peter O’Toole Prize, a scheme to identify the most promising actor, awarding her a contract at Bristol Old Vic. Her most recent roles include Olivia in Twelfth Night (Orange Tree Theatre) and Her Naked Skin (Circomedia). Other work includes the multimedia production Otis and Eunice (Raucous Theatre) and television project Calling the Shots: Clifford (BBC/Calling the Shots films).  

Dorian Simpson – JJ
Dorian is best known for theatre work including Rapunzle (Theatre Royal, Bath), Wendy & Peter (National Theatre Of Scotland/Edinburgh Lyceum), Brighton Rock (Pilot Theatre), Persuasion, So Here We Are (Royal Exchange, Manchester) and Jason and the Argonauts, Jeramee, Hartleby & Ooglemore (all Unicorn Theatre). His film work includes The Codfather, Faith, Meet the Guvnors, Abusing Protocol and Turnout.   

Tom Brennan, Co-director
Tom Brennan is a director, performer and writer. Tom directed RIOT, 33South Western and The Great Gatsby and co-directed 1972: The Future of SexThe Last of The Pelican Daughters and The Curse of The Golden Whisk for The Wardrobe Ensemble. He was resident director at The Almeida where he was associate director on Mike Bartlett's Albion (dir. Rupert Goold) and assistant director on Anne Washburn's The Twilight Zone (dir. Richard Jones). Tom also co-wrote and directed The Rocky Shock and Drac and Jill for The Wardrobe Theatre. Tom founded Closer Each Day, a cult improvised soap opera at The Wardrobe Theatre. In 2020 he wrote and directed a short film A Woman Walks into a Bank starring Lauren Lyle. 

Helena Middleton, Co-director
For The Wardrobe Ensemble, Helena has co-directed WINNERSEducation Education, Education, Eloise and the Curse of the Golden Whisk and Edgar and the Land of Lost (Bike Shed Theatre) and directed Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain (Bristol Old Vic), The Deep Sea SeekersThe Time Seekers and The Star Seekers (Wardrobe Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse). Her recent directing credits include: Pippi Longstocking (Royal & Derngate, Northampton) Then Again (King's Head), The Assembly Women (VAULT festival), Islanders (Theatre West) and The Oil and the Shard (Camden People's Theatre). Helena has assistant directed productions at the Soho Theatre, The Cambridge Arts Theatre and Trafalgar Studios and was Assistant Director on Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution at London County Hall. Helena has also made several short films. KIN had its overseas premiere at Palm Springs International Film Festival and recently finished an extensive festival run, including Underwire and an out-of- competition screening at Encounters. MY MAMA, A MAN was an official selection for BFI Flare London LGBTIQ+ film festival. Most recently Helena has directed a trio of music videos for singer/songwriter Sam Brookes, a dance film with Tim Lytc and an original movement film, BREADLINE, which was commissioned by the BBC.

Anna Orton, Set & Costume designer

Anna Orton is a designer working across Theatre, Dance, Opera and Exhibition. She has previously designed South Western for The Wardrobe Ensemble while her previous work for Bristol Old Vic includes Tom Morris’ Messiah and King Lear, Extraordinary Wall of Silence (Theatre Ad Infinitum) and Trojan Women directed by Sally Cookson. Other designs include The Tsar has his Photograph Taken and La bohèm (Scottish Opera) Cendrillon (Buxton Opera Festival), The Effect (English theatre Frankfurt), A Christmas Carol (Pitlochry Festival Theatre), Philistines (Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre), Arachnophilia (Dublin Fringe Festival), No Kids (Theatre Ad Infinitum/UK/International Tour) and Champ (Tobacco Factory, Bristol).

Tom Crosley-Thorne, Sound Designer & Composer Tom is a Bristol-based composer and performer who has written and produced music for film, theatre and touring bands and receives regular radio play across the country. He has previously worked with The Wardrobe Ensemble on The Great Gatsby1972: The Future of Sex and The Wind in the Willows. 
Venue: In Theatre
Dates: 25 Nov 2021 - 8 Jan 2022
Times: 10am / 2pm / 7pm (various days - see website for details)
Prices: PWYC from £8 / U18 tickets 20+% off (Standard tickets only)
Box office: / 0117 987 7877
Ages 7+


ACCESS: Socially-distanced performances: Dec 3, 7, 8,15,18, 29 and Jan 2, 4, 6 SignedCaptionedRelaxedAudio Described performances also available

Bristol Old Vic is the longest continuously running theatre in the UK, and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. The historic playhouse aims to inspire audiences with its own original productions, both at home and on tour, whilst nurturing the next generation of artists, whether that be through their 350-strong Young Company, their many outreach and education projects or their trailblazing artist development programme, Bristol Ferment.

They use their funding to support experiment and innovation, to allow access to their programme for people who would not otherwise encounter it, or be able to afford it, and to keep their extraordinary heritage alive and animated.

On 24 Sep 2018, Bristol Old Vic completed its 2-year multi-million pound redevelopment project, which transformed its front of house space into a warm and welcoming public building for all of Bristol to enjoy, created a new studio theatre and opened up its unique theatrical heritage to the public for the first time.

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