Arts Review: Expensive Shit

Dir, Adura Onashile, Tron Theatre, 30th March – 1st April

I walk into the auditorium not sure what to expect. A toilet attendant? Two clubs in different continents? Dreams of dancing? I am not sure this is going to work. Yet what I encountered is an intelligent, thought-provoking and sensitive performance. Somehow, it manages to connect two seemingly separate worlds by focusing on the universality of themes like dreams, power and the rights of women’s bodies.

Expensive Shit works by playing on the similarities and differences of the two settings, a Nigerian nightclub and a Scottish club based on Glasgow’s Shimmy Club. The stage is used ingeniously to reflect such nuances. The props and setting remain identical, which underlines the idea that the structures of each place essentially function in the same way. Yet, subtle changes in lights, to illuminate a different club name, and sound variation in the form of changing background music, reveals the simultaneous cultural differences.

The setting is brought alive by the insightful acting and passionate dancing of the four performers, three of whom each take on two roles (one for each setting) whilst the protagonist remains the same. Yet even she is revealed as having gone through experiences that changed her. In the later-set location of Glasgow, the toilet attendant is shown at first as cynical, beaten, accepting of her subjugation. In comparison, her younger self seems to live off of her hopeful dreams for the future of becoming a dancer in the revolutionary band of the late Nigerian musician Fela Kuti.

Throughout the play, however, dark undercurrents begin to emerge as implications of the abuse of men’s power appear. Poverty pushing women into the arms of abusing men, date rape and the male gaze become apparent features of the play. I thought it was incredible the way in which I was pulled along with the actors in their slow realization of the covert powers that were controlling their lives and their bodies.

Yet what truly inspired me was the ending. Rather than leaving me with a bitter taste in my mouth and a sense of powerlessness, it empowered me, as the actors managed to find a way to retake control each in their own way.

[Kirsty Campbell]

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