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Theatre Review: Dollywould

23 May 18 words: Adrian Reynolds

Sh!t Theatre’s hoedown with the lowdown on Dolly Parton.

They’re at it again. Last year's 2016 Fringe First winners Sh!t Theatre were at the Playhouse with their award-winning show Letters To Windsor House. It was nearly the end of Becca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole’s partnership – doing a production based on the grotty flat they shared and the difficulties of the life they led spiralled into something that was the very definition of too close to home. So they decided to do a show based on something they both love: Dolly Parton, and that it’d be their break-out hit. Hopefully that’s just what Dollywould is becoming for them.

Naturally, being a show that Becca and Louise have concocted it’s not a straightforward hymn of praise to the country singer, actress, entrepreneur, and philanthropist that is Parton. They love her, sure. And they’re also fascinated by what makes her tick, as a human being and as the distinctive face and even more distinct silhouette of a major American entertainment brand.

Blagging Arts Council money to check out the Dollywood theme park in Tennessee, the show is a riotous look at what happens when someone turns their history, their voice, and their body into a means of entertaining audiences. In the process they discover that next to Dollywood is a sinister Body Farm, where human corpses are left to rot in a variety of settings – in water or on soil, exposed to air or under canvas. It’s the kind of juxtaposition you’d expect in a Ballard novel but there it is for real, and it’s perfect fodder for the show.

Also up for consideration is Dolly the sheep, who as well as having distinct white hair was cloned – from part of the original’s breasts. I’m not sure sheep technically have breasts, but it’s the other relevant connection to Dolly, and the ideas are set up on a merry-go-round that provides no shortage of merriment. Along the way there’s singing and banjo-twanging, musical recreations of a classic Dolly TV interview, speculation about the singer’s sexuality, the whole creating a wonderfully ramshackle show that’s equal parts performance art and hoedown.

This is exactly the kind of thing I’d put on the Royal Variety Show if I had any say in the matter – the format could do with an injection of broad humour from humorous broads, postmodern speculation, and awkward/crowdpleasing nudity. With Dollywould, Sh!t Theatre deliver the goods once again.

Dollywould was at Nottingham Playhouse on Thursday 18 May 2018.

Sh!t Theatre website

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