DollyWould combines a love for the country music superstar Dolly Parton with scientific analysis of the cloned sheep Dolly. Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit, the partners of Sh!t Theatre, pay homage to Dolly Parton with distinctly lesbian overtones as they analyse the commercialisation of her art. The busty songstress is a muse for the pair as well as an enigma, where they ask: ‘What lies behind the buoyant mammaries and caked make-up?’
Louise and Rebecca made the decision to fund a holiday to America to visit Dollywood. This is a theme park that features the singer and contains a plethora of Dolly-related merchandise and exhibits, including a reconstruction of Dolly’s rustic family cottage. Their obsession with Dolly includes an anecdote about her losing a drag lookalike competition: the impersonators were more Dolly than Dolly herself, which prompts Louise and Rebecca to explore the idea of branding and replication.
DollyWould is also about exploring the problem of sustaining image. Dolly’s plastic surgeries and extravagant costumes are attempts to maintain her image against the flow of time. This is the subject of many interviews: a supercut plays of all the times Dolly is asked about her weight, clothes, hair and persona. Louise and Rebecca also flash pictures of decaying bodies: the attractions of the Tennessee Body Farm, which lies in close proximity to the theme park. The body farm is a scientific experiment to test how corpses decompose in various different natural conditions. The link to Dolly is that her body will also undergo similar biological processes, which highlights the discrepancy between brand and reality.
Dolly Parton, as a brand, is an illusion. But Dolly has her flock of clones, such as the drag queens, who propagate her image in new forms that are eternal. When the original Dolly dies, her essence will live on; it is poetically macabre.
The thrust of DollyWould seems to be bleak, but Louise and Rebecca spin their pilgrimage to the theme park as a kind of realisation about their idol. They see her for two things: firstly as a person to look up to and secondly as an immortal brand. DollyWould is ultimately a very well executed and tender account of their passion for her. After all, Dolly united them when they were in danger of falling out, so if their mutual love for this pageant beauty can heal wounds, then it should be seen in a positive light.
Sh!t Theatre has really thought this show through. Louise and Rebecca stand by a Xerox machine and as the light of its copying scanner hits their faces, they recite interviews, songs and expositions about Dolly. They don sequin dresses, ratty blonde wigs and pink goggles with painted-on blue eyes, becoming their own versions of their muse, so they can now radiate part of her essence.