City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Expensive Shit, Traverse 2, Fringe Review

By Irene Brown - Posted on 05 August 2016

Expensive Shit- Image by Sally Jubb.jpg
Show details
Traverse Theatre
Adura Onashile and Scottish Theatre Producers, in association with Traverse Theatre Company
Running time: 
Adura Onashile (writer and director), Fela Kuti (music) Patricia Panther (additional music), Lucy Wild (choreographer), Karen Tennant (designer), Simon Hayes (lighting design), Patricia Panther (vocal coach), Matt Padden (sound design), Ros Steen (accent coach)
Sabina Cameron (Tolu), Teri Ann Bobb Baxter (Woman1/Lady 1), Jamie Marie Leary (Woman2/Lady 2), Diana Yekinni (Woman3/Lady 3)

“I have a degree in shitology,” says Tolu, not a claim many of us would want to make.

Tolu (Sabina Cameron) is a toilet attendant in present day Glasgow where she is dependent on tips from her young female clients to survive. As she cleans and sprays the toilet cubicles used by the young women out for a good night on the town and with whom she tries to engage, her mind goes back to her younger days when she held dreams of freedom through being a dancer in The Shrine, the Lagos nightclub run by radical Nigerian musician and political activist, Fela Kuti.

It is Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat music with its liberating lyrics that permeates this all female four-hander with a strong feminist message from acclaimed writer and director, Adura Onashile. Over the piece, the metal framed set from Karen Tennant switches, through clever lighting by Simon Hayes, from a poster covered ladies’ loo to the high octane, jumpin’ joint that was Kuti’s dance club, retaining a corrugated look that symbolises African township living.

It is here that Lucy Wild’s choreography combined with the raunchy dance skills of the four cast members shine as they strut their stuff as the women who hold a beacon of hope through the chance of being noticed and maybe becoming one of the lucky few to make it in to Kuti’s band.

The play points up the tensions that can be involved for a woman to survive as she seeks a better life. Does she gain the short term freedom of starring on stage with an icon when there’s a chance of being seen as easy sexual meat by observers? Does she stay in dire poverty or feel protected while part of a persecuted commune with the risk of entering a form of prostitution? There is always a price in this game that is life.

Sabina Cameron gives a powerful performance as Tolu, whose own compromise as an agent in the seedy survival game, along with her assumed loyalties with ‘Lady 1’, superbly played by Teri Ann Bobb Baxter, are exposed as the play progresses, directly confronting the audience about who’s in charge and who’s watching whom.

Expensive Shit hammers home a worthy and important message about power and control that could be delivered with a bit less didactic fervour and still be a challenging piece of theatre.

This world première is part of the Made in Scotland 2016 programme and was developed with support from the National Theatre of Scotland, Soho Theatre, London and Southbank Centre, London where it will be performed from 1 – 3 September 2016 at 2pm and 7.30pm as part of Africa Utopia.

5-29 August, 2016 daily rotating timings age recommend 14+
Tickets: £18.50-£20.50 / £13.50-£15.50 conc. /£8.50 unemployed.