Hope you are all doing well. I wanted to share some of the interesting & exciting things I do every now and then.
Last month, I made the impromptu decision to check out what shows were on offer at Soho Theatre and stumbled upon this gem; Expensive Sh**. Now you’ll have to forgive the profanity on this post, but that is literally the title of the show.
I’m a bit of a regular at Soho Theatre now, if you’ll remember from my review of the theatre production of Girls last year. If you want to check that out, please click here . You should be able to recognise one of the girls from that show in this review too.
Back to the matter at hand… here is my review.
Winner of the First Fringe Award 2016, Expensive Sh** is an original play written by Adura Onashile about a toilet attendant but believe you me this is not just any regular story. The play focuses on Tolu, a former dancer who had dreams of being picked for the revolutionary music band, Fela Kuti. Adura speaks more about the show in her Fringe Festival interview, which you can check out by clicking here.
The play drifts between present day and flashbacks and a stark contrast of hope and despair are clearly evident. Tolu now works as a toilet attendant in Glasgow and dreams of her more brighter and happier days, where she was filled with so much hope. The flashbacks drift between her dancing days in Shrine Night club in Lagos in the 1980s and present day in Glasgow all told from conversations in the toilet.
The dreams of being picked and the many difficult decisions and options that the girls had. Desires of being picked set within cruel themes of objectification and exploitation are clear from the onset. The girls use dance as a way of empowering themselves and feeling free, but also in the hopes of being picked by Fela Kuti to gain a better life.
Dance is not the only thing they had to endure. Being picked also meant being put on a list to offer themselves to band members at his commune in Kalakuta in an effort to improve their chances of being allowed into this select group.
Present day Tolu also has some very difficult decisions to make. She works at a Glasgow nightclub, but this isn’t just any nightclub. The play splices the story of Shimmy nightclub – prosecuted in 2013 for allowing male patrons to watch the women’s toilets through a ‘spy mirror’.
For a an extra cut, she is asked to coerce the girls into a list of activities to ensure she gets more money during her shift. The Glasgow club scenes focus on the harsh reality of her new life in Britain as she struggles to make ends meet and is again forced with difficult circumstances. Her conversations with one particular girl spark a chord and are a key focus of this play.
The play is an Afrobeat-filled exploration of freedom, power and exploitation which was definitely worth watching! The music and dance will uplift and entrance you taking you back to Lagos and really embracing the culture in the 1980s, you may even want to join in.
But the real question is why the crazy title… Well, the play asked the question of how far would you go? Where does morality stop and end? What is the true cost of success? In essence it is Expensive Sh** because it is based on important conversations held in a toilet. However, the cost of course is the bending of morality due to exploitation and the loss of self having been immersed is such trying circumstances.
In Adura’s words, she “wanted to talk about the way Fela Kuti’s movement treated women and the fact that he was a man who was an absolute revolutionary in terms of anti-colonialism and anti-corruption, but that just didn’t translate to women.” This is her main focus on both scenarios, in the third world 1980s Lagos Shrine night club and in the first world Shimmy night club in Glasgow.
Something I think should really be centre stage, the exploitation and objectification of women should never be condoned or promoted. These are conditions and choices that women should never have to endure or feel forced to make.
So how did other theatre goers & experts rate this show?
‘Providing some powerful messages about gender politics and life’s inevitable disappointments.’
★★★★ British Theatre Guide
‘An important truth told with formidable force through dance, music and fast-moving dialogue.’
Well there you have it! This show is definitely well worth the watch!
What are your thoughts on the show’s themes? What other shows have you seen and do you think I should check out and review? Please let me now in the comment section below!
Until my next post…