Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum with Expats

Drink Rum with Expats is one of the many highly acclaimed productions currently on show at Holden Street Theatres. Presented by Sh!t Theatre – the collaboration of UK based duo, Becca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole – this production offers itself as a recount of Becca and Louise’s venture to Malta, a small, idealistic, sun-kissed island in Europe. Specifically, the pair take us to Valletta, ‘The European Capital of Culture’. This comical telling quickly shows its full depth as the pair take a deep dive into the political climate of this small country.  The production highlights the profound cultural tensions that lie beneath a country’s touristic offering and also explores the constructions of expats and immigrants.

On our entrance we were poured a beer and given cheese: Sh!t Theatre were welcoming in us in with the same pleasant rituals that expats experience when establishing their communities abroad. Soon after introductions, Becca and Louise begin to unpack the privilege of an expat and the marginalisation of an immigrant, yet they are not arrogant or overpowering in this political discussion. ‘Expats’ and ‘Immigrants’ are lined up alongside of each other, exposing their constructed similarities and differences – it is suggested that the former comes from a ‘rich’ country, and the latter from a ‘poor’ one. This is symbolically presented many times throughout the production, such as when we see our expats wearing life jackets and drowning themselves in alcohol, while the screen behind them plays a photo reel of immigrants drowning at sea. Before we know it, Becca and Louise plunge into one of Malta’s, and the world’s, greatest predicaments: who is entitled to citizenship?

This piece of theatre is by no means traditional; instead, it is a rich melting pot of various theatrical genres, mediums and devices. There is song, dance and elements of physical theatre. The set, in its structure, is rather simple but decorated with humble props that bring the space to life, with each prop serving as a connection to travels or the political discussion at hand. The use of real audio recordings, photographs and videos from Sh!t Theatre’s travels contributed not only to the humour of the piece, but in realising the authenticity and intensity of the unfortunate truths that sit behind the comedy.

A specific note of praise must be given to the inclusion of song within Drink Rum with Expats. Revised lyrics and touching harmonies were applied a familiar sea shanty tune and the audience were invited to sing along, establishing a sense of community and belonging within the quaint theatre. The singing was at times jovial but also offered the sensation of nostalgia and a melancholic connection formed within a patriotic community when under threat.

The execution of this production was sharp and seamless.  It was fast paced and engaging with an improvisational tone. It felt like highly organised chaos, a whirlwind, allowing 75 minutes fly by in an instant. The organic chemistry between Becca and Louise was evident, heightening the comedic appeal of the production. The fact that there was, arguably, no fourth wall ever built to be broken encouraged a relationship to be formed quickly between performers and audience members. Such a relationship enabled the uncomfortable undertones of this piece to be received without resistance. A hearty commendation should be given to Becca and Louise for their writing. Layering comedy with harrowing political commentary takes remarkable intelligence and acute social awareness.

Sh!t Theatre were right to present such a show to Australian audiences. An ‘Australian expat’ and ‘expats in Australia’ are common pairings. However, the relationship between Australia and immigration is not nearly as friendly and sometimes forgotten. Australian citizens have often exercised the privilege of living and travelling abroad, immersing ourselves in a foreign culture and then returning home to be welcomed with open arms by everyone in our country – even those working at airport security – all because of our Australian documentation. Becca and Louise’s experiences were much the same.

It has never been more important for people to see such pieces of art, and Becca and Louise make this piece of political theatre an absolute pleasure to watch.

 

4.5/ 5 stars


Words by Michelle Wakim

Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum With Expats runs until March 15.
To find out more and to purchase tickets click here.

In Conversation with Lynette Washington

To Rhyme Or Not To Rhyme is a children’s book of poetry by Kristin Martin and Joanne Knott. It is also the first publication of Lynette Washington’s new South Australia-based Glimmer Press publishing house. In the week before the launch of To Rhyme Or Not To Rhyme, I caught up to chat with Lynette about the ins and outs of her huge new venture.

Martin’s manuscript would eventually become To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme, a set of thirty rhyming and another thirty non-rhyming poems aimed at children. The poems are all nature based and are accompanied by the beautiful work of Joanne Knott reading the manuscript, Washington tried to help Martin place the work at more established publishing houses. Impulsively, she promised Martin if no one else would take it, Washington herself would publish the work.

LW: I wasn’t really thinking about what that meant too much! Kristen thought the offer over and came back to Lynette a few days later, wanting to publish with her long-time friend. Well, once I said I’d do it, I had to follow through.

RK: Yeah, well, I suppose publishing someone’s manuscript is not something you can back out lightly.

It’s obvious that Washington loves what she does. It’s clearly a nerve-wracking project but you can hear excitement and passion when she talks about her role as publisher.

LW: Well, you know what it’s like – it means so much to writers to get published and to get acknowledged in that way.  I’ve known Kristen for so long and she’s such a good friend that I knew she would be cool with me finding my way through the process and figuring it out as I went. Although I worked for MidnightSun for years, I was really only involved in certain aspects of the business, so there were parts of publishing that I knew really nothing about. So it was nice to publish my friend’s book as my first book because I knew she’d forgive me any blunders.

RK: It’s kind of like a first pancake, isn’t it? You know how they’re always a bit iffy?

LW: Yeah, that’s so true, you always have to throw out the first pancake.

Given the relatively small size of Adelaide’s publishing community and Glimmer’s infancy, I was curious about the publication’s next steps, beyond To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme.

RK: Is Glimmer primarily interested in children’s books or are you a bit easy either way?

LW: Definitely not just interested in children’s books. I think the next book I publish will be a book for adults, although I don’t know what that will be yet. I’ve also got a particular interest in short stories and stories that really play with genre conventions.

RK: I suppose it makes sense with you being a short story-ist that you would want to publish those things. Short stories are also wonderful to sit and read and just kind of have piece meal.

LW: From your mouth to the world’s ears. I just wish more people thought that because there’s still a bit of reluctance, I think, for the reading public to pick up a short story collection. I would love to see that change. But then, it goes in cycles and there have been eras where short stories have been the preferred norm.

RK: That’s for sure. Charles Dickens seemed to have a good time with it.

LW: Yeah, it worked for him, didn’t it?

Washington’s desire to publish adult fiction next turns us briefly towards MidnightSun, another small SA-based press. Washington worked at the press for a time and some lessons stuck past her tenure at the publishing house.

LW: Anna (Solding) always used to say you publish something that you love and that’s true. When you work for a small publisher you invest a good twelve months or more in a book and unless you really passionately love that book there’s no reason to take it on. There’s a huge amount of work that goes into very little reward financially; there are other rewards of course, but I think you have to fall in love with something in order to take it on. And that’s really what happened with Kristin’s book. It’s so special and I knew that a lot of big publishers would run from something like this; [a project] that’s not going to make anyone lots and lots of money, but should be out there in the world. I guess that’s what I’m looking for: those little projects that should be out there in the world, but maybe other publishers would shy away from.

RK: I think it’s important in Adelaide specifically, because our publishing industry is so small, to have those pushing off places or catch alls for forgotten projects.

LW: Absolutely, and I think little publishing houses are definitely pushing off places for writers. I saw that happen a lot at MidnightSun. A writer would get their first break with them, have some degree of success, and then they’ve got a publication record and when they approached a bigger publisher, they’re more likely to be taken on. It definitely serves that purpose for emerging writers, which is good thing, a really valuable thing.

 

Glimmer Press can be found at their website glimmerpress.com.au, on Facebook as Glimmer Press and on twitter @glimmer_press.

 


Interview by Riana Kinlough

Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash