Sh!t Actually – Camden People’s Theatre, London

Writers and Performers: Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

If you’re looking for some alternative Christmas cheer then Sh!t Theatre’s new play , an irreverent examination of the rather dodgy sexual politics in the film Love Actually, is the show for you. With trademark songs and silly outfits Sh!t Theatre are a double act at the top of their game.

You don’t need to know the film in order to understand Sh!t Actually as it’s easy to get the gist of the plots that appear in Richard Curtis’s Christmas classic. And anyway Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole, with their faces painted white (and with Mothersole’s inspired holly moustache) break down the multiple storylines into single narratives, sometimes sticking faithfully to the original, or sometimes creating their own darker endings, the most grisly reserved for Keira Knightley.

They’ve watched, they say, the film over 20 times, and this has allowed them to uncover the rather unlikely stories of women falling in love with men they know nothing about. With its lack of agency for women and its occasional transphobic joke, the fact that Love Actually was recently voted the nation’s favourite Christmas film tells us a great deal about our country today. We may laugh – and we laugh a lot – at Sh!t Theatre’s observations, but it does make us realise that 2003, when the film was released, was a very long time ago.

With clips of the movie showing on a screen at the back of the stage, Sh!t Theatre re-enact some of the scenes operating their loop pedal to create eerie versions of the songs from the soundtrack such as Dido’s Here With Me. Also on the screen are clips of Biscuit and Mothersole diligently doing their research. In last year’s DollyWould the pair went to Dolly Parton’s theme park in Tennessee and in Sh!t Actually we see them on a Love Actually coach tour visiting spots in London used in the film. As the trip lasts longer than the film, Biscuit declares it a feat of endurance.

We would like to see more of their charabanc experience, but this is a live show, and Sh!t Theatre wisely ensure that the films never eclipse the wonderful chaos on stage. And as it’s Christmas they bring in some pantomime audience participation, although some members of the audience were better in seeing the cues than others; ‘Bonjour Colin’, anyone?

At 60 minutes, we leave wanting more, which is perhaps the best way to leave any party. With this summer’s Brexit show, Drink Rum With Expats, Sh!t Theatre have spoiled us with two brand new pieces in a year. And the best thing? Sh!t Actually is pretty good, actually.

Runs until 21 December 2019

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Pretty good, actually

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