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Expensive Shit – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Writer: Adura Onashile

Director: Adura Onashile

Reviewer:  Tom Ralphs

Two toilets, two stories, twenty years apart. The only things they appear to have in common are the toilet attendant and the objectification of the women who use the toilet. Unfortunately, they also share a failure to take off and make the production come to life.

The first story is set in a Lagos nightclub in 1994 where Tolu and three friends practice their dance moves in the hope of being spotted and getting invited to join the revolutionary band of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. The second story sees the action move to a club in Glasgow around 2013 where Tolu is now a toilet attendant, her dreams having never been realised. Here she tries to make friends with the customers, while also speaking to unseen men who watch what happens in the toilet through cameras and two-way mirrors.

As scenes alternate between the two settings we find out more about how the escape from oppression in Nigeria for people chosen to be dancers comes at a high price, and still, doesn’t provide real freedom. While in Glasgow, the men behind the mirrors may be doing more than just watching the women put on their lipstick and go to the toilet.

The Nigerian story fails to make use of the rich stream of real life source material available to it. There are several scenes of the four friends dancing, and other scenes where they talk about what they hope to achieve by being spotted by Kuti before realising what they would need to do if they were, but the story stops before anything truly happens.

The Glaswegian story also takes a long time to get going, fails to make the most of the drama in the story of the women who is apparently drugged after leaving the toilet, and Tolu doesn’t seem to feel any real sense of conflict about what she is doing when she talks to the women.

Kiza Dean as Tolu gives a good performance as she switches between the young idealist and the woman she became, and Veronica Lewis, Jamie Marie Leary and Maria Yarjah also capture the mix of innocence, optimism and street-wise confidence as they practice their moves and compete to get spotted. Their characters in the 2013 story aren’t as developed, however, and these scenes are generally lacking in energy, which also drags down the energy levels of the production as a whole.

While there is a thematic link between the two stories it’s hard to see what is gained by telling them alongside each other, and easier to see what is lost in a 65-minute production that is too short for either of them to be developed enough to make you invest in the characters and their lives.

Runs until 11 March 2017 | Image: Sally Jubb 

 

Writer: Adura Onashile Director: Adura Onashile Reviewer:  Tom Ralphs Two toilets, two stories, twenty years apart. The only things they appear to have in common are the toilet attendant and the objectification of the women who use the toilet. Unfortunately, they also share a failure to take off and make the production come to life. The first story is set in a Lagos nightclub in 1994 where Tolu and three friends practice their dance moves in the hope of being spotted and getting invited to join the revolutionary band of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. The second story sees the action move to…

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The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.