Home » Reviews » Drama » Expensive Shit, Soho Theatre – Review
Credit: Eoin Carey
Credit: Eoin Carey

Expensive Shit, Soho Theatre – Review

Pros: The message about objectification of women is powerful and originally conveyed.

Cons: The parts spoken with a Nigerian accent might be harder to understand for those who don’t speak English as a first language.

Pros: The message about objectification of women is powerful and originally conveyed. Cons: The parts spoken with a Nigerian accent might be harder to understand for those who don't speak English as a first language. The objectification of female bodies is deeply ingrained in any society, regardless of continent or hemisphere. Whether in Europe, Africa, or elsewhere, a woman is often called to face situations where her qualities and dignity are overshadowed by her physical features. The wolf-whistling and out-loud comments on the street, the shameless looks up and down and the unwanted approaches in a public place are…

Summary

Rating

Good

Life seen through the eyes of a club's toilet attendant swings between comedy and drama but doesn't entirely succeed as either.

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The objectification of female bodies is deeply ingrained in any society, regardless of continent or hemisphere. Whether in Europe, Africa, or elsewhere, a woman is often called to face situations where her qualities and dignity are overshadowed by her physical features. The wolf-whistling and out-loud comments on the street, the shameless looks up and down and the unwanted approaches in a public place are something that many women learn to live with from an early age, thinking that it is not a big deal. Ultimately though, it shouldn’t be OK.

Adura Onashile’s Expensive Shit delves into this topic using two parallel situations that represent the past and present of Tolu (Kiza Deen), an aspiring dancer from Nigeria who ends up working as a toilet attendant in a club in Glasgow. During her youth in Lagos, Tolu left her family to follow musician and political activist Fela Kuti, who opened his home to create a sanctuary for the dispossessed, called Kalakuta. Kuti’s community distanced itself from the Nigerian establishment, promising equal treatment and opportunities to the several women who decided to join. Tolu’s big dream of freedom and independence, though, is soon hindered by a growing awareness that an excessively liberal woman is more often seen as a sex partner than a valued individual. In disappointment she decides to move to Europe, in search for a better fate. Sadly for her, things don’t improve much in Glasgow, where she starts working as a toilet attendant in a club and is forced by her employer to perform some dodgy tasks aimed at pleasing the male clientele.

This 60-minute single-act play is set in the ladies´loos of what becomes, by turns, Fela Kuti’s famous club The Shrine and an unnamed disco in Glasgow. Karen Tennent´s design is simple but clever and we watch the scene as if we were behind one of the many mirrors in the room. Changes in lighting and background music mark the switches between past and present and, overall, the play is quite easy to follow. Swinging continuously between comedic and dramatic, however, Expensive Shit fails to shine in either genre and, despite effective aspects in the production and a powerful message of equality, is not funny enough to truly entertain or deep enough to provoke.

The acting fails to convey very strong feelings, except for an isolated moment of collective rebellion which explodes without an appropriately climatic build-up. The only moments I thoroughly enjoyed were the dancing sequences with the Afrobeat musician original tracks and the cast’s sultry moves, which I found genuinely exciting and beautiful to watch.

Expensive Shit has an important message and its diverse casting is most welcome in British theatre.  But to really succeed it requires further development into a full-length two-act play. Also, the choice of a thrust stage, with the seats on three sides, rather than the conventional end-on stage of the Soho Theatre, might help the audience to feel closer to the action and relate better to Tolu’s personal drama.

Written and Directed By: Adura Onashile
Producer: Scottish Theatre Producers and Soho Theatre
Box office: 020 7478 0100
Booking link: http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/expensive
Booking until: 22 April 2017

About Marianna Meloni

Marianna Meloni
Marianna, being Italian, has an opinion on just about everything. Her dream has always been to become an arts critic and, after collecting a few degrees, she realised that it was easier to learn how to write in a foreign language than finding a job in her home country. She believes that anything deserves an honest review and that more people going to the theatre would result in fewer wars. Recently she has developed intolerance toward the words “secret” and “immersive” but she hopes it’s only temporary.