Following its successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, duo Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole have arrived at the Soho Theatre to bring their show to London audiences.
The set-up is that we’re in a pub. But not just a pub, it’s a recreation of ‘The Pub’ in Valletta, Malta. Pre-show, there’s a generous offer of free beer and free cubes of cheese to collect from the bar on stage. Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole hand out the beverages and snacks with the English flag painted on their faces. Around the set, similar patriotic flags can be found and on the large projector behind, a range of clips are played on rotation from the football to karaoke lyrics. Before the show begins, you’re lulled into a sense that this will be a light-hearted comedy about expats. But you quickly learn that there’s more to it than that.
This production leads with humour but constantly shocks and surprises. In the same breath that it entertains and teaches us the Maltese word for penis, it equally seeks to appal and tell us about the atrocity of the migration crisis and also corruption in Malta. Its attempt to mix the cheese with the chalk here is achieved with debatable success.
In Sh!t theatre, the audience sees Malta through the lens of these two young Brits, who play themselves. Biscuit and Mothersole have been commissioned to put on a show at ‘The Pub’, thanks to their friend Charlie who lives in Malta. During the show, we see their preparation or lack thereof for their one-night only performance. There’s a slideshow of video clips, photos, sketches and more which allows us to intimately learn about their experience of getting to know the area. We meet the locals/expats who frequent ‘The Pub’ and see the excessive Oliver Reed merch there too. Some crowd surfing and some singing of simple sea shanty songs are also thrown into the mix as ways to engage the audience.
Like its title, the overall feel of the show is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. But then it touches on a range of sobering and uncomfortable truths in a persistent manner as if to suggest it should be taken seriously. It feels like clickbait almost. You’re lured in by the free booze, including rum or by a certain joke. But once they’ve got your attention, the focus will suddenly shift to a socio-political issue such as the double standards in who can attain EU citizenship. In doing so, it makes you sit up and successfully brings these problems to the fore, but perhaps not with the necessary level of gravity.
The show provides us with a presentation of the problems they’ve encountered rather than offering a meaningful exploration of it. At the end, there are fundraising buckets to signpost that they’re doing their bit now and the audience should too.
We learn that Biscuit and Mothersole performed a censored version of their final production in ‘The Pub’ as they were warned to take out scenes of a political nature. But in the comfort of the Soho Theatre in London, they appear to be having a fun time running the full production there.
Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum with Expats is running at the Soho Theatre between 8 – 19 October at the time of writing.
Photo Credit: Aly Wight.