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Review: Sh!t Actually

Review: Sh!t Actually

Review: Sh!t Actually cover photo on Stagedoor
“You can’t ignore the market,” say Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit of Sh!t Theatre in Sh!t Actually (livestreamed via Home, Manchester).

The market tells them that audiences emerge happier from their annual Sing-along-Muppets extravaganza than they do from the company’s art-house shows. I think the ladies do protest too much. The truth is that the Sh!ts have a genius for making us laugh and think at the same time, as pieces such as Drink Rum with Expats and Letters to Windsor House have proved.

But the market certainly defines what we all consume. Particularly at this time of all too conspicuous consumption, Christmas. The company’s first live streamed show (coming out of Home in Manchester which is Tier 3 so precluding the audience who they had hoped would be present) considers what it is that makes Richard Curtis’ 2003 film, Love Actually, the UK number one Xmas movie. The pair suggest that the best way to consume the show might be with copious amounts of Baileys (which I’ve never tried) and chocolate digestives (which I have, but the chocolate must be plain).

Louise Mothersole & Rebecca Biscuit. Photos by sweatmother.

Part of the astonishment of Mothersole and Biscuit’s mix of dissection and deconstruction is that it points to the fact that although it was made less than 20 years ago, the movie’s attitudes belong in the 19th century, or possibly the ark. The only term suitable to describe 30-something Andrew Lincoln’s obsession with the teenage Keira Knightley is stalking. How come Colin Firth’s writer falls in love with a woman with whom he cannot communicate at all? Have you ever counted the number of times that Martine McCutcheon’s character is referred to as fat or chubby?

The pair cover this territory with glee, their normal mix of craft and mayhem, a sharp eye for current feminist discourse and just enough heart to embrace the lovesick, the lonely and the broken hearted.

This is a duo that always feed off the presence of a live audience, the unexpected moments when an audience shift and shape what is unfolding and which make the company’s shows not just live but extra live. The employment of WhatsApp as a substitute doesn’t quite offer the same energy or interaction.

But it’s good to see them so gamely exploring what live streaming means for their practice and how they might interact with audiences digitally. Sh!t Theatre’s achievement is to make it impossible to ever watch Love Actually again without your mouth falling agape in horror. God only knows where we’d be without them.

Sh!t Actually is streaming from HOME Manchester until Fri 18 Dec. You can book tickets here.

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Lyn Gardner

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