Review | Dirty Laundry, Camden People’s Theatre ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Fast fashion. Our high streets and online stores are flooded with it. When you buy these clothes, it’s a ringing endorsement of the practices which allow for your favourite jeans or dress to arrive at your doorstep. If you’re comfortable slipping into these items, you should at least know the conditions which enable mass market clothing retailers to thrive as they do. Dirty Laundry confronts its audience with the harsh realities of fast fashion production in a compelling and gripping new play.

Through the eyes of Seema and Rahima, the uncomfortable truth of modern day factory working conditions is revealed on centre stage. We first meet these girls when they are new to the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh and beaming with youth and innocence. But when in the factory, these once excitable girls become unrecognisable labourers. They are akin to hardened machines made to conduct repetitive tasks and produce reams and reams of clothes. One is consumed by thoughts of hitting targets and despite her arduous efforts is unable to send enough money home, while the other seeks to mobilise a group to start their own worker’s union.

The show’s creators and performers, Krystal Campbell and Camila Robinson-Rodriguez, tackle this issue of substance and urgency through a smart collaboration of movement, dance and theatre. It’s unpredictable and takes dark turns which commands your attention as the drama unfolds.

In a standout scene, Camila pulls on a blazer and morphs from a factory worker to a militant corporate figure. She delivers a disturbing monologue as if negotiating contract terms directly with the audience. Her dominance is asserted as she bends and contorts Krystal, depicting the way these companies abuse their negotiating power to secure cheap inputs. Interspersed within the monologue are these PR soundbites that we’ve all heard before. How companies are doing all they can to improve conditions for their workers and are committed to fair wages. The staging dynamically captures this contradiction between the pretense fast fashion producers uphold and the underhand practices which they partake in.

Activism through art requires challenging  public discourse whilst respecting the experiences of the people which it seeks to empower. Dirty Laundry in this short work in progress, carefully treads the path between these two ends. Whilst in development, it would benefit from fleshing out the characters of our central protagonists and bringing home the connection between what we’ve just witnessed and the clothes on the backs of most of the audience members.

All in all, the two-person cast deliver charismatic performances in this charged and necessary play.

_____

Dirty Laundry is a dancer-actor collaboration exploring how mostly female garment workers pay the true price for quick, on-demand fashion. Our work in progress is stitched together through dance and theatre.

About the company:

Next to Him Productions is an actor-dancer collaboration passionate for rebellious and socially conscious art. Krystal is in her final year at Laban training in Contemporary Dance. Camila is a recent graduate from Central School of Speech and Drama. Both have a background of creating intricate work using audience participation, comedy and movement.

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