HOME Theatre, Manchester; Friday 27th September, 2019
Two years ago things seemed to be going extremely well for esteemed international performance artists Sh!t Theatre – somehow they blagged a cheeky holiday to America to stalk their idol Dolly Parton and ended up coming back to Britain with a fully-fledged mainstream crossover hit show.
But recently, in true showbusiness style, things seem to have gone a bit awry for the normally effervescent duo – both are now economic migrants who have been forced to leave their homeland: one says she’s feeling lonely on a canal boat and the other is grafting it out in Leeds, a small town just north of London.
But the Sh!ts are an irrepressibly intrepid theatre making proposition – instead of banging on about how sh!t it all is on Twitter they’ve done what they’ve always been good at: made a new show about it.
In their latest caper Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum with Expats they do exactly what it says on the (Cisk lager) tin – they drink a sh!tload of rum with a wild assortment of other migrants in order to work out just what the f!ck is actually going on in the world.
There’s an incredible backstory to how The Sh!ts ended up in a pub called The Pub in Malta drinking a feisty homebrew called “Oh Dear God”. It revolves around a mysterious secret agent called Charlie – a dictator’s wife on the run after having been found guilty of poisoning. As ever The Sh!ts tell it best so there’s no point in even beginning to describe it.
The island world they describe is a stormy one, caught up in complex circumstances of murder and mystery, immigrants drinking rum, immigrants paying to get a passport, immigrants not paying to get passports, the right kind of immigrants and the wrong kind of immigrants.
The Pub in Malta is fully reconstructed on stage, as they do their shift behind the bar the Sh!ts sing their jolly old sea shanties and tell the raucous tales of what they saw, who they met, what they felt out there.
The Sh!t’s mood-crafting and story-telling powers are extraordinary, it all comes across like an unexpected stop on some great, sea-faring voyage of discovery, as if the audience has itself landed on some mysterious island. There appear to be very few actual locals on this theatrical island, just migrants – migrants who don’t want to leave, migrants who have themselves left and now don’t want to go back, migrants trying to get in, migrants paying to get in – some more so than others. What was the question again?
The politics of immigration, nationalism and border control are all over this performance but it’s all so delicately weaved and presented as a factual observation of what was seen and said. It’s blindingly obvious what the sentiment is yet the morality is not pushed too hard, it speaks for itself.
Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum with Expats is a wonderfully atmospheric experience. It’s probably not too dissimilar to an over-enthusiastic rum drinking session: it starts off with barrels of laughter, a good old cockney knees-up, lots of booze flowing; but there’s no escaping the gradual descent back into the complexities of the real world. Perhaps they’re right – it might just be best to carry on drinking our way through it.
|Visual pleasure||Hilarious staging to replicate a pub scenario, the action taking place behind the bar, on the bar, in front of the bar; and via some brilliantly well timed projections on the back wall.||5|
|Auditory pleasure||Overflowing with salty sea shanties, some of which descended into huge singalongs that were excruciatingly embarrassing yet just impossible to resist.||5|
|Architecture & Theme||Classic Sh!t Theatre formula of telling it like it is – a totally acceptable manifestation of the “what I did on my holidays” cliche. Though maybe some of the mood swinging went a little bit too far in the attempt to get some very serious stories into what is predominantly a happy and joyous performance exhibition.||4|
|Artistic delivery||Captivating performances from both actors, effortlessly charming and so easily able to enthrall the audience without looking as they were even having to try.||5|
|Overall impact||Ultimately a night of drunken messiness but one tinged with deeply serious content. A show that doesn’t solve any issues but one which certainly helps the pain to go away – theatre’s equivalent of downing a fine bottle of soothing Pink Pigeon.||5|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|