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Shopping and Fucking review: An explosively sensory play whose simple message is marred by the grotesque

Steve Hogarty
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Shopping and F**king
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Sex and love are reduced to transactional commodities in the colourfully named Shopping and Fucking.

In Mark Ravenhill’s controversial 90s play, some young folk have wilfully inducted themselves into a kind of sexual servitude. Rent boys leap out of cardboard packaging, and the stage is made to resemble the set of a gaudy shopping channel, complete with green-screen and towers of consumer goods.

Before the show the cast attempts to sell you merch, while the audience is given the hard-sell on a pair of seat upgrades on stage. It’s only a fiver – and you get a free bottle of cava.

Everything is for sale and emotions have no worth in this day-glo drubbing of our consumerist values. But what begins as dark humour descends into scenes of extreme sexual violence that feel unwarranted and tangential. The simple message of the play gets lost somewhere in the midst of the noisy and inarticulate script, muddied by the fug of faint disgust that hangs over the audience.

Blood, drugs, rape and an eye-catching title may have given this play notoriety in 1996, but Shopping and Fucking didn’t say much about anything back then, and it says about as much today.

   

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