Shopping and F***ing sprung to ‘in-yer-face’ life at the Royal Court Upstairs in 1996 at a time when the world was still reeling from a major AIDS epidemic and the words HIV positive were on everyone’s lips and constant media headlines. Controversial from the off it featured a pseudo rape of an under age boy by his step father and abuse by other males. Some labelled the play bleak, some very black humour. Regardless of the nature of response there was no getting away from the hard hitting play and it went on to world fame. The AIDS/HIV issues are sadly still with us. National Aids Trust.
The play explores what is possible if consumerism supersedes all other moral codes; a place were transaction is King. To this effect everything is reduced to dealing including sex, violence and drugs. God and kindness appear to be officially dead and shopping centres are the new glossy and morally void cathedrals of Western consumerism.
The characters names in the play are taken from the boy band Take That and the single female name in the cast – Lulu – is that of the artist who collaborated with them in their hit single ‘Relight My Fire.’ It all fits even the blunt and violent tautological inference derived from the forceful band name. This numbing play is hard hitting but not without its bleak humour.
Very highly recommended
The performance of Mark Ravenhill’s Shopping and F***king at Nottingham New Theatre is raw, beautifully joint directed by first year student Liam McCelland and Rory O’Shea and is the finest and most professional production this reviewer has had the pleasure of viewing at this excellent high quality student run theatre at Nottingham University.
Everything about it screams (no pun intended) professionalism. The set and lighting (Darcy Graham and Harry Bridge) are splendid. The studio set is a perfectly grubby little dual world of sad existence made real and Bridge’s lighting is very atmospheric and impressively tight in the ever changing scenes.
The smiling programme faces of characters Mark (Charlie Jamieson), Brian (Duncan McGillivray), Lulu (Lara Cowler), Robbie (Cameron Walker) and Gary (Ted Marriot) give nothing away of the very difficult and maturely actualised performances they give in the play. Impressive is hardly the word to describe the devotion and bravery these student actors put into this brilliant production.
A lot of amateur companies would shy away from the subjects of acting out gay sex scenes – however subtly done – nudity and phone sex sessions and bringing some harrowing emotions convincingly to the fore. The acting here is superb. This is visceral theatre at its nightmarish best and Nottingham New Theatre should be highly commended for showing this hard hitting and often darkly funny play in their season. Tis a pity it is only on until 30th April.
Sometimes five stars is not enough. Very highly recommended.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe