Review: Sh!t Actually by Sh!t Theatre, Camden People's Theatre, NW1

Review: Sh!t Actually by Sh!t Theatre, Camden People's Theatre, NW1

I've got a very large soft spot for Sh!t Theatre, the punky, powerhouse duo of Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole. I've seen most of their shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, but because they are not always in the comedy programme I've tended to see them at the end of the festival. Two years ago their show DollyWould, their oddball ode to Dolly Parton, was the very last show I saw and I lost my notebook in the theatre. That notebook contained every single thought I'd had about the Edinburgh Fringe over the previous month, but it was worth losing it to see their show.

Then this August I tried to see their show Sh!t Theatre Drinking Rum With Expats earlier in the Fringe run when I would not be so forgetful but couldn't get a ticket for love nor money. I even took to loitering around the Summerhall box office for returns without any joy. Then on the very last night, just before their very last performance I walked up to the ticket desk again. Maybe they knew my desperate face by then, but before I'd even said a word they handed over a ticket for the final performance. They didn't even want any money for it.

So obviously after that bit of good fortune I was very well-disposed to their latest show, Sh!t Actually, their seasonal tribute/send-up/merciless parody of Love Actually. But I'd have enjoyed it even if I was grumpy with them. It's political in a different way to Drinking Rum..., which delved into Brexit and much more, or the first show of theirs that I saw, Letters To Windsor House, which laid bare the nightmare of the property rental sector in London. 

But what it shares with their previous work is an absolute commitment to playfulness, irreverence and fun and making the audience feel like part of the process. In Sh!t Actually, two fans who are strangers are seated together to test whether they can fall in love by the end of the show. And we all get a themed goodie bag including a chocolate digestive (thanks, Rebecca Biscuit) to eat at the right moment in the evening.

The format of Sh!t Actually is fiendishly, deceptively simple. Biscuit and Mothersole simply tell the story of the film. Well, their interpretation anyway. They don't so much deconstruct it as rip the living piss out of it. Whenever dashing Colin Firth appears in clips everyone has to shout "Bonjour Colin". Whenever Laura Linney pops up we have to shout "She's behind you!". Well, it is panto season after all.

Making fun of the Richard Curtis all-you-need-is-love schmaltzfest does feel a little like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel. The Andrew Lincoln/Keira Knightley storyline, for example, has become something of a comedic trope when one wants to describe a relationship that is basically creepy and borderline stalking. But Biscuit and Mothersole take this subplot to another level, while also mocking Lincoln for not being able to decide whether to put a coat on when he goes outside.

Other moments in the film are equally bizarre once you think about them. Martin Freeman's sex scene with Joanna Page even gets a new song from them to go with the direction, underscoring quite how unacceptable a sex scene like this is. Which is not to say that Biscuit and Mothersole are averse to pornography - a word of warning, a few porn clips included in the show make it very much not suitable for children,.

But the highlight, although their Hugh Grant dance comes in a close second, is their homage to the late, great Alan Rickman, whose character, they decide, works for a broomhead charity. Having set up this gag, boy do they get the bit between their teeth and run with it. 

There is politics in here, about the male-dominated world that the film exists in, but the emphasis also feels very much on fun and laughs here, which is why Beyond The Joke is reviewing it. 

But did the couple in the audience fall in love? Well that would be telling, but who cares when everyone gets a tot of Baileys to toast them. 

Oh, and did my missing notebook ever turn up? No it didn't actually. 

Sh!t Actually runs until 21 December. Buy tickets here.

Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum With Expats is touring in 2020. Details here.

Picture © Sweatmother

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