Friday, 6 May 2016

SHIT by Patricia Cornelius, May 4, 2016 ***1/2

At fortyfivedownstairs, until May 15, 2016 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri May 6, 2016 and in print earlier in this week. KH
Be warned! You would not want to meet these women in a dark alley. Really!

The three characters in Patricia Cornelius’ play, SHIT (all capitals, so shout the title), are tough, mean, violent and damaged by their abusive pasts and limited by their disappointment and rage at the world.

Cornelius’ caustic, provocative and funny play captures the grim and gritty environment inhabited by these marginalised and disenfranchised women.

On a set that resembles an industrial grey, concrete bunker or prison (design, Marg Horwell), Bobby (Sarah Ward), Billy (Nicci Wilks) and Sam (Peta Brady) prowl and crouch like caged animals.

They voice their resentment and frustration as they trawl through their topics of choice: swearing, fighting, foster homes, sexual abuse, crying and not being able to escape their dire circumstances.

Although these women are vile and offensive, the three passionate actors make us love them a little and sympathise with them a lot.

Cornelius’ dialogue is liberally peppered with expletives, vulgarity and barely repressed violence that echoes the real world of these women as they struggle to make sense of, or even survive their wretched lives.

Ward is big, bold and bolshy as Bobby, the petite Wilks is feisty and shrill as Billy, while Brady balances the trio as the warmer, more vulnerable character, Sam.

Director, Susie Dee’s production maintains a cracking pace to match Cornelius’ searing, rapid-fire dialogue and she intercuts the volatile, verbal scenes with dialogue-free vignettes that employ a gestural language that is effective in part but not always fully integrated or cohesive.

However, this physicality provides breathing space between the women’s relentlessly angry interactions and also a visual representation of their audacious and dangerous actions that take place behind the grey wall, almost out of view.

We can laugh with these women but, ultimately, their story is poignant, tragic and reminds us that many are left behind in our world of progress.

By Kate Herbert

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