Sh*pping & F*cking- part of Gilded Ballon's civil:lies season

Playwright - Mark Ravenhill
Director - Chris Perkin & Lydia B. Ziemke
Venue - Gilded Balloon BO 07780 927852
Reviewer - Daniel Winterstein

It takes a strong stomach to watch Sh*pping & F*cking. This play leaves no taboo unbroken: strong language, drugs, violence, nudity, underage male prostitution & a scene that's unpleasantly close to onstage rape. It's a hardcore visceral drama that pulls no punches. Perkin and Ziemke's on-the-money production uses the initimate space of the Gilded Balloon to really hit the audience in the gut. A strong cast play it all with sincerity, and an aisle stage arrangement - similar to theatre-in-the-round - means you are uncomfortably close to the action. This is powerful theatre.

Are the shock tactics justified? Perhaps. It's over the top, but there are strong political points behind it (and a small note of hope which allows the audience to leave without counselling help). Mark Ravenhill approaches politics with all the subtlety of the old Red Army. Money is to blame. Robbie (Chris Perkin) Lulu (Clare Garnsey) and Mark (Joel Ganz) want love, but their lives are driven and mediated by money. It is not just that lack of money drives them to extreme actions, but that modern consumer society has left them valuing everything in monetary terms. Human relations are put on a basis of commercial transactions. Ravenhill buys your attention for his soapbox politics with dark comedy, such as Lulu's unique rendition of Romeo & Juliet or Charles Palmer's psychotic businessman/Lion King fan, and involving human drama . He could write for Socialist Worker. But if he did, I'd read it.

© Daniel Winterstein, 13th March 2002