Home Theatre; Wednesday 19th April 2017
We’ve all wanted to do it at some point in our lives. Have you ever opened someone else’s mail?
Any normal, decent human being would probably say it’s illegal. But is it though???! It seems that the law is annoyingly imprecise: there’s a suggestion that it’s only a crime if you set out with the intent to deliberately inflict harm on someone; and then, unbelievably, the hopelessly antiquated wording seems to also explicitly suggest that women are free to open as much mail as they like, only men can be prosecuted!
This then is the premise of Sh!t Theatre’s Letters To Windsor House – a wild and refreshing documentary that gives us all the chance to be the nosey bastards that we know we all are. Sh!t Theatre allow us to enjoy the deliciously naughty pleasure of prying into someone else’s business; yes we all know it’s a bit wrong but once it starts there’s no going back and we’re all in it together, unleashing the dirty, smutty little secrets of other people’s lives. Sh!t Theatre do the public flogging, we all gather round as voyeurs and enjoy the spectacle.
The Windsor House in this performance is not the one you’re thinking of, far from it. This is all about Windsor House in Haringey, London N4: a grim and bleak council estate in the sprawling grey infinity that is suburban north London. The Sh!t performers, Becca and Louise, begin by explaining that, ever since they moved in to Windsor House, they’ve had to endure a torrent of unwanted mail through their letterbox, all addressed to a variety of previous residents.
And so begins Becca and Louise’s noble quest to find out more about their residential ancestors – an altruistic act to check that they’re all OK and not in any trouble. Tiny titbits of information are gathered from the internet, but it is only when the mountain of letters to Windsor House are opened that a treasure trove of personal information is unearthed, bringing Becca and Louise’s letterbox ghosts to life.
The Sh!t performers then make a song and a dance about it – literally. There’s a fair bit of jovial shit-stirring going on as well: we learn of an Irish man who owes HMRC £10 in unpaid tax; Becca and Louise reckon some other guy seems to have an adult baby fetish; and someone else looks to be caught up in Turkish gang warfare at the local Grosvener casino.
All of this (and much more) makes for compelling viewing. So much goes on in this performance: one moment you’ll think you’re watching a powerful and precise BBC4 documentary; then suddenly you’ll feel you’re in the audience of Jeremy Kyle cringing at someone’s secret shame; then there’s a Sh!t song and dance about adult babies; then there are cute little dialogues where Becca and Louise both intimately reveal how annoying the other is to live with.
Set-wise there is little going on, other than a few cardboard boxes and a disco strobe light (courtesy of one of the letters to Windsor House of course) – but then there doesn’t need to be. The performance is a mixture of Becca and Louise’s singing and dancing and a carefully choreographed video presentation on a screen behind them. Windsor House slowly begins to come to life with secret filming on the streets, secret recordings of telephone calls with the council, and a multitude of juicy evidence from the internet.
In the end, nothing actually happens here, there’s no real plot. There is a Sh!t script (which you can buy a copy of at the end) but the performance is brilliantly spontaneous, it doesn’t feel, even for one second, that a script is being carefully followed. Ultimately there is a very dark and serious message to take away from this performance – one concerning London’s housing crisis and the accelerating separation of rich from poor.
So you’ll get to learn some random stuff about Windsor House, the residents who used to live there, the local shops and amenities, and plans for the future of the area.
This might sound like an incredibly dull concept for theatre, but, despite the seeming randomness of it all, for just over an hour Sh!t Theatre really make this performance work, it comes together brilliantly in the end to produce non-stop entertainment that pleases in a way that you won’t quite be able to explain, nor fully understand.