Sh!t Theatre's production of Dollywould is the perfect performance homage to both singer and sheep.

They’re both self-proclaimed lovers of Dolly. That’s Dolly as in Parton and Dolly as in “the sheep”. Unique clones, you see. In fact, Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole were so enamoured that they visited Dollywood, as well as a couple of Tennessee’s other top tourist attractions (Knoxville Body Farm anyone?).

But Sh!t Theatre’s dynamite production of Dollywould is so much more than an experimentally mad montage to the country ‘n’ western star, or even to the first of its kind in viable genetic modification of mammalian somatic cells. Because while hilariously bouncy and utterly bonkers, it’s also a message of uniqueness, a celebration of individuality and an unashamedly alternative production of performance theatre. Plus, it’s laugh out loud funny in its madness.

Dollywould Soho Theatre

Throughout Dollywould, we are reminded that the singer herself was constantly critiqued because of her looks, hounded by talk show hosts to speak about her weight, her measurements and any visual enhancements (be they plastic surgery or wigs). Parton overplays her image to emphasise the hypocrisy of all those that judge her for being herself, those who claim that she’s undoing any semblance of feminist progression by dressing up like a sexualised Barbie doll.

Biscuit and Mothersole aptly highlight in their portrayal of Parton that she actively chose to make these adjustments, eschewing the idea of conventional beauty by modelling her look on the local town tramp. The performance duo plays up this stereotype too – they draw attention to their aesthetic in order to remind an audience that it’s more important to pay attention to the art, the message, than the shape or size of the performers themselves. Also, because they fucking love Dolly. Unique clone, you see.

Dollywould Soho Theatre

The ingenuity in Dollywould is the desire we have in society to copy. Photocopiers; genetic copies; lookalike contests that even the originals can no longer win. We are so set on magnifying our idolatry that we lose sight of the individual who started the craze in the first place. The distinctions that make us original become consumed by a brand concept, one that can be translated and templated, manufactured and mass-produced to create a collective where everyone is the same. Unique clones. Oh, the irony. Wrap this up in over-egged absurdity, like two bean bag breasts on a swing, and you’ve got yourself a powerful metaphor. At least, that’s what Biscuit and Mothersole achieve.

Dollywould Soho Theatre

Dollywould stands proud and separate, out on a limb from much of the narrative theatre that pervades our fringe scene at the moment. No holes barred, as well as no holds barred, Biscuit and Mothersole mash-up all things Dolly, bombard us with the glitz and the glamour as well as the death and decay. Frantic and frenetic, but carefully controlled and conceived, Dollywould distinguishes itself from any look-alikes – a unique clone, you see.

 

 

★★★★☆

Dollywould runs at the SohoTheatre until 14 April 2018 before embarking on a UK tour. For further information, please visit the venue website or the company website.