Saturday 27 June 2015

SHIT review

Nicci Wilks, Peta Brady and Sarah Ward
Photo by Sebastian Bourges
I'm going to hazard a guess and say that Patricia Cornelius' SHIT would be the theatrical equivalent of The Wolf of Wall Street, in holding the record for the most amount of expletives used. Beyond this, SHIT is raw, compelling and honest in its portrayal of not only three women who are on the outs of society, but how women who subvert societal expectations are treated and seen. And it is fucking brilliant.

The three women, Billy, Sam and Bobby (Nicci Wilks, Peta Brady and Sarah Ward) have grown up together living in and out of residential care units. They really are shit people and if the opening conversation between them isn't enough to convince you with its barrage of swearing and aggression, then stick around, as there's plenty to come. The idea that they have lost their womanhood because of their behaviours and appearance is explored throughout SHIT. It's no coincidence that Cornelius has branded them with traditionally male-gendered names and the point is driven home when one of the characters begins to refer to women as "them", leading to one of - if not the most - powerful scene of the night. 

Cornelius has strong thoughts on how women are viewed in the community and with SHIT, she has brought to the stage people who have been stepped on and spat out by society. We've all seen them and know them, even if we choose to ignore their existence. But this is their moment and we are going to listen to what they have to say. While the show is powerful and confronting, Cornelius never lets you feel overwhelmed, due to some well-timed light comedic moments interspersed throughout. 

Susie Dee's direction continues to amaze. Dee masterly uses the interludes to delve into the various attitudes and feelings of the women, from being victims of domestic and sexual violence to predatory like creatures themselves, ready to pounce. They are short but thought provoking into the way we see these women. Dee won a 2013 Green Room Award for her direction of Savages and nominated for the same award in 2014 for the ingenious The Long Pigs, and I would not be surprised if she turned it into a hat-trick with SHIT.  

You could not have formed a more skilled team of actors than in Wilks, Brady and Ward. Wilks in particular captures the enforced hardness of Billy: the way she carries herself, the intonation in her voice and the angry fire that burns in her eyes. In contrast, Brady's portrayal of Sam shows a naivety to her circumstances and her attempts to view the world through rose coloured lenses even though the harsh realities will eventually overpower her. There is a fine balance of two extremes in Ward's Bobby, simultaneously shown as a time bomb of frustration waiting to explode and as a fragile and afraid child.

Marg Horwell's set design is imposingly cold and hard and while the whole performance space is visible, there is a feeling of claustrophobia that grows as the story continues. Rachel Burke's lighting design enhances this darkness that is enveloping the three women and I've not seen set and lighting come together so well than in the scenes with the use of a single round mirror.

The women in SHIT may be shit, but they are also strong women, too strong perhaps for a society that forces women to be quiet and docile with nice hair and perfect clothes. They are together and alone, weak and strong, victims and perpetrators. SHIT is brimming with powerful juxtapositions and contrasting thoughts that cannot be missed. 

So having said all that, stop what you're doing and fucking go see SHIT you fucking fuck, because if you don't, you will be missing out on some fucking amazing theatre that has a lot more to say than just fuck. Enough fucking said.

Venue: Melbourne Theatre Company, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank
Season: Until 5 July | Wed-Sat 7:30pm, Sunday 4:00pm
Tickets: $25 all tickets
Bookings: Melbourne Theatre Company

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