Robbie (Arnold), Lulu (Wu) and Mark (Spruell) don’t adhere, they cheat the system, they steal and they experience emotional attachments that do not abide by customary sexual transactions. They are not civilized. Because civilization is money, money is civilization. Brian (McGuire) needs to teach them. Soon they’ll learn to view themselves as commodities selling into to the Capitalist world where humanity, morality and sexuality are skewed beyond perception.
Some believe the unseen is the most powerful and telling part of theatre. Ravenhill disagrees. Shopping and F***ing is a confrontational piece, demonstrating the twisted, graphic and horrifying truths we would rather omit and leave to the imagination.
Holmes’ choice to have an onstage audience skilfully highlights the play’s critique, giving credence to its reputation as a reflection of society. In some sense the most shocking elements are not the violence and decadence of the world that the production portrays, but the perverse and often stomach-churning reactions it provokes. The exploration of both live and televised theatre also works well to cement the production firmly in the 21st Century, the era of modern technology. In a world obsessed with reality TV, big brother and visual stimulation, Holmes identifies and expands Ravenhill’s vision and adds another outlet for transactions to occur.
There is a good chemistry between the cast members whilst exploring the non-naturalistic and punctuated style. Spruell’s journey through Mark is one of the most intriguing, his participation in Brian’s world fluctuates at first while partaking in true, however obsessive and addictive attachments. Yet, Mark ends consumed in the world of transactions, totally embodying the idea that everything has its price.
McGuire is equally impressive bringing a fresh new insight into Godlike Brian, a capitalist monarch dressed in white, ironically clean as she stands surveying the pollution and filth around her.
Capitalism engulfs all, including us as the audience. We too demonstrate that everything can be bought or upgraded through cold hard cash, whether it’s production merchandise or the chance of ‘VIP’ onstage seats.
The televised supermarket world of Shopping and F***ing seems decadent, extreme and unsustainable. And yet, in reality, it is only a reflection – albeit a condensed and exaggerated version – of the world we live in.