Review: Rhiannon Faith - Scary Shit - The Pleasance

Performance: 26 & 27 February 2016
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Tuesday 1 March 2016

Rhiannon Faith - 'Scary Shit' Photo: Tina Remiz

Rhiannon Faith and Maddy Morgan are brave and feisty. Their two- woman, tragi-comic show Scary Shit is one big risky experiment: a pair of close female friends fessing up to a multitude of fears and phobias, going through cognitive therapy together, and ending up, well, not better but somewhat enlightened and resolved.

The stage is littered with pink, girly objects and accessories such as a telephone, sofa, fluffy cushions while outlandish costumes adorn the two leading ladies – Faith look like a sci-fi character out of kids TV, Morgan like a cool Goth girl with a hint of Star Wars. Overall the general visual impression is of a low budget, fringe theatre show which is exactly what it is and The Pleasance is a fitting venue. Gritty and raw, not glamorous or polished, I like it already.

The first half of Scary Shit is full of comedy gags, delivered by the bubbly, outgoing Faith while the more reticent, introverted Morgan communicates through emotive dance solos. As a double act, they complement each – Faith is small colourful and chatty, Morgan, tall, dark and intense. They get on each other’s nerves. Morgan’s throws sulky facial expressions and rolls her eyes when Faith asks her to do anything. Faith tries too hard to please and make everyone happy. Her pleading glances to Morgan are often spurned.

Faith’s the kind of woman who doesn’t stop talking in fraught situations – and the beginning of Scary Shit is tense. We’re not a giving audience; no one reacts much to the extensive list of phobias shared by both women, nor do their jokes about cocks, menstruation, sex or relationships get many laughs. The pacing is slow and laboured and some of the time it’s just awkward and gloomy, even though I want to love these two characters and respond to everything they do or say.

However things warm up when Faith talks about how she has had to justify her reasons for not hurrying into motherhood such as the pressures of being a dance artist, lack of time, conflict of interests. While Morgan dances in her little marked spot. Her writhing movements are clear cut and articulate, sumptuous yet torturous. She is anchored in her space, not traveling but emotive from her feet upwards. Huge gestures are flung from deep inside her core. There’s a sincerity about her when she’s moving which is captivating especially as she’s working through her own personal fertility issues. Her hiding place is behind a ball decorated with knotted ropes – a grim metaphor for her womb.

We are with them now and the account of their therapy sessions with Joy the psychotherapist is communicated in this same winning mix of narrative, slapstick and expressionist dance. Choreography that is, as Faith pronounces shyly, complex and layered.

Faith is confessional and chirpy as she recounts her first ‘shag’ – dry humping on a grassy bank outside her parents’ house, hysterically re-enacted with Morgan on top of her all pumping hips and anxious glances out to the audience. Morgan’s first sexual encounter was not so comical and from this point on, the humour dries up and we are left with her knotty problems and pain. She performs another physical monologue, brisling with pathos and hurt. The two then breathe in sync for a time, compose them and hug.

It’s great to see a female duo which celebrates real women, their friendships, problems and eccentricities and while Scary Shit is a jaunty ride with components that don’t always gel, its protagonists’ bold, touching performance makes it work.

Scary Shit will be touring later this year

Josephine Leask is a lecturer in Cultural Studies on the BA (Hons) degree course at the London Studio Centre and London correspondent for The Dance Insider

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