Saturday, 5 November 2016

Review: Shopping and Fucking, Lyric Hammersmith

"The getting is cruel, is hard, but the having is civilisation" 

Shopping and Fucking. Shopping and fucking. Fucking fucking fucking. Even the venue staff at the Lyric Hammersmith have to buy into the censorship that sees Mark Ravenhill's 1996 play coyly renamed Shopping and F***ing, referring to it as Shopping and Effing. Which makes it all the more ironic that Sean Holmes' production places the emphasis firmly on the former part of that title.

From the minute you take your seat in the radically reconfigured auditorium (design by Jon Bausor and Tal Rosner), the cast are hawking merchandise and seat upgrades - they even need a coin for the slot machine to get the play 'started'. It's a whole lot of extraneous business, which continues into the production itself, which with the frantic use of green screen and multiple cameras proves most distracting.

Maybe this is deliberate, for the plot is fractured and fragmentary - flatmates Mark, Robbie, Gary and Lulu shuttle around their world of drugs, sex, raves, violence and more sex as they struggle to establish meaningful relationships in a consumerist nightmare of a world. Thus any emotional interaction becomes a transaction, as current now in the contemporary relocation as it was in its original 90s setting.

In all its brash boldness though, there's too little sense of character to make the social commentary really chime as strongly as it could, the message about 'shopping' rammed home far too hard beyond meaning. And if David Moorst manages to locate something of an emotional heart to the play as rent boy Gary, the production lacks the razor-sharp wit that it is present in the script. 

Running time: 100 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Helen Murray
Booking until 5th November



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