REVIEW: DOLLYWOULD (Soho Theatre) ★★★

DollyWould, the latest show from Sh!t Theatre, is a funny and timely reminder that it’s okay for theatre to be silly, and it’s okay for audiences to expect silly theatre to be created and performed to a high standard.

Becca and Louise wanted to make a show about something they love. So they made a show about Dolly Parton. It’s deliciously silly, and that’s okay. After all, what are the arts for if not to cheer us up when the real world is a bit sh!t?

Their homage to Dolly tells us it’s okay to celebrate beauty and fun and sexiness and silliness, and it’s possible to appreciate a person with great boobs without objectifying the boobs.

That said, of course, you can’t make a show about Dolly Parton and completely ignore the fact that sexism and misogyny exist. Their nod to all of the times Dolly was objectified during her long spell in the limelight is deft and dry, and it fits straight into the show thanks to the lightness of their touch.

I enjoyed the energy, and the show definitely keeps its audience on their toes, sometimes leaving us to guess which “Dolly” they’re talking about, sometimes teasing us with deliberate “mistakes” during the verbatim interview sections sung in chorus.

The design didn’t do much for me. I see what they are trying to do – there is a distinct haphazard vibe – but for me, the fact that the set gets in their way so much is more of a distraction than the slapstick laughs are worth. That said, the structure is satisfying and it holds the chaos together nicely.

These are two solid performances. Even if Becca and Louise didn’t tell us how long they’ve been making theatre together, you would be able to guess. This is good, enjoyable storytelling which makes nice use of their impressive skill sets.

The DollyWould story is as much about friendship as anything else and the Dolly tattoos are a proudly displayed testament to their enduring friendship. The road trip footage and photos add an extra degree or two of warmth to the piece and work well as a souvenir of the literal and metaphorical journey Sh!t Theatre’s work has taken them on over the past year.

Reviewed by Annabel Mellor



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