Dollywould by Sh!t Theatre – Camden People’s Theatre
Since their 2017 Edinburgh hit, ‘Letters to Windsor House’, Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole have been hot fringe property. Under the cover of an amusingly self-deprecating company name, Sh!t Theatre, they created their own form of agit-prop theatre using cardboard boxes and unlikely make-up, personal, political and funny in equal measure. Their much anticipated Dolly Parton-themed follow-up, ‘Dollywould’, sold out in Edinburgh and, on the face of it, could not be more different. In fact, Sh!t Theatre lure us to Tennessee and Dolly’s theme park under false pretenses, offering a comedy fan-girl trip only to head down some disturbing alleys.
‘Letters to Windsor House’ revolved around the pair’s flat share, ending as they fell out and went their separate ways. Apparently this was for real, so they took a friendship-mending holiday to Tennessee (with lighting tech, Jen) to share their love for Dolly. The trip is presented in their signature home-made style, much more sophisticated than they would have you believe. There is verbatim-style re-enactment of a 1977 TV interview with Dolly, just before she made it big; videos of their trip, including toilet visits; karaoke sung by the light of a photocopier; tattoos; and breasts. Adept at discomforting the audience, Biscuit and Mothersole spend much of the show with nipples showing through holes snipped in their tops, before eventually covering up with giant model breasts. This is their way of presenting the physical barrier between Dolly Parton and the rest of the world.
However, ‘Dollywould’ is concerned with much more than Dolly’s public image. The two are fascinated and sometimes appalled by with her self-made status and her focus on making money, evidenced by the relentless merchandising at Dollywood. They also trace her long-term lesbian relationship, well-known but never publicly acknowledged. And they provide inimitable context by visiting the nearby Tennessee Body Farm, where corposes are left to decay for forensic purposes and souvenirs are also available. They also dress up as sheep from time to time, slipping between Dolly Parton and Dolly the sheep. An apparently light-hearted piece becomes increasingly unsettling, as Dolly Parton’s identity becomes blurred and questions swirl as to who we really are. These intriguing themes delivered with skill, charm and sophistication. Sh!t Theatre remain essential fringe performers.