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Theatre Review: Letters to Windsor House

7 April 17 words: Adrian Reynolds

Down but not out: Shit Theatre make magic from misery.

Shit Theatre

I do these reviews, but please don’t mistake me for any kind of authority on theatre. Far from it. But I have seen quite a few theatrical performances over the years, and every now and then one will stand out in ways that make me think of the medium differently. The first time I saw one of Ken Campbell’s one man shows was such an occasion. The hilarious physical theatre reinvention of The 39 Steps was another aha. And Letters to Windsor House is a third.

Becca and Louise live in a crappy flat in Windsor House, on a London estate where all the buildings are named after royal palaces. They’ve been there a few years, in an area where poverty is prevalent, yet a new housing development targeting wealthy foreign investors has been constructed. They receive a lot of mail for previous residents of their crappy flat, which they keep in a chest of drawers that holds the awards they’ve won for their work as Shit Theatre.

Out of those ingredients Becca and Louise concoct a poignant, political, and deeply funny show which validates the idea that the wisest thing to do with suffering is make art out of it. They address the audience directly, telling us what it’s like living with someone you work with when you can’t afford to move out. Only, while they’re doing it they’ll drop in some harmony singing, crap dancing, or a blast of the Romanian hip hop the people living in the flat underneath like to play.

There’s a transparency about what Becca and Louise do that’s deeply engaging. You could probably talk about breaking the fourth wall, but it’s more appropriate to say that what they do is punk. They get up there, having made a show about their lives with an awareness of how politics and economics shapes them, using props they have to hand, and create something raw and honest that has power in part because rawness and honesty are pretty much the opposite of most of what we served up to us as art.

In exploring former residents, they connect the dots between housing, debt, and why people end up disappearing from places they’ve called “home” owing money. Thanks to the playful way it’s put across and the stories that crop up along the way, those themes accrete without ever feeling dogmatic – there’s too much of the colour and reek of life about what Becca and Louise do for the show to be boiled down to any simple description.

 

Letters to Windsor House was at Nottingham Playhouse Friday 31 March and Saturday 1 April 2017.

Shit Theatre

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