Slap and Tickle at Tobacco Factory Theatre

I’m in the extremely privileged position that I have been reviewing theatre and performance for Weston-super-Mum now for over 6 years. It’s important to me to review honestly, to make my reviews accessible, and to get the message out that theatre is something for everyone not just a cultural elite. I understand that for a lot of people (me included before I was lucky enough to land this reviewing gig), attending a theatre performance is a once or twice yearly thing, so it is important that they spend their money to see something which they are going to enjoy. Over the years, I have seen some wonderful, deeply moving, entertaining, funny and life-affirming stuff. And then tonight, I saw Slap and Tickle at Tobacco Factory Theatre…

Now, I am an artist, and an abstract artist at that. I am aware of how pretentious this sounds when I tell people what I do, but I hope that those who know me feel I am much more down to earth than that. (I am also a gardener for a start.) I’m not really into highbrow high art, or things that seem to purposely exclude people by deliberately and loudly proclaiming their ‘cleverness’. Liz Aggiss brings us a solo performance in three parts that promises to ‘decode, in a disorientating display of contradictions, interpretations and propaganda: girls, ladies, women, mothers, pensioners and senior citizens.’ We are then witness to an hour of something that I find hard to describe. A mash up of jerky body movements, flamboyant whirling dresses, queries about what sort of women are in the house (any dead mothers? any leaking mothers? any annoying chatterboxes? any bitches?), musical hall musings, rubber snakes, coins falling from a vagina… and pass the parcel and balloon wanking simulations. Of course. Well, I am afraid this “feminist soup” just didn’t do it for me; I simply felt disorientated and as though things had not really been ‘decoded’ at all. I got the giggles for all the wrong reasons, and this felt like one of the longest hours of my life. I’m puzzled though, the vast majority of reviewers who have written about this show loved it. Really loved it. There is plenty of waxing lyrical about its feminist principles, how clever it all is, how challenged they were by it all. Me? Well, maybe I am just not clever enough for it. Kudos to Liz I suppose for her boldness. She is anarchic, certainly has stage presence and you cannot say that she has become ‘invisible’, something that women are told will happen to them as they age. In that sense, I respect her even though her performance left me bemused and slightly pissed off about Arts Council funding. She always wanted to be seen and heard, and she certainly has managed that. It’s just that I REALLY didn’t like this show. Maybe you are cleverer than me. Maybe you might like it. As my companion wrote in her review of this piece, theatre is subjective so you might want to go and see what you think. I can’t recommend it though, because of how I feel about wanting theatre to be an inclusive thing that doesn’t switch people off.

The two redeeming feature of this show for me were that it gave me a great Depeche Mode ear worm, (Master and Servant, seeing as you asked) and I also won a Toblerone in the pass the parcel audience participation. And that’s the positives covered. Ach, who knows. I am probably just being grumpy because I am on my period or something.

Women, eh?!

Review by Karen Blake

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