Rhiannon Faith, Scary Shit

Posted: February 23rd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Rhiannon Faith, Scary Shit

Rhiannon Faith, Scary Shit, Venue 2, Rich Mix, February 20

Rhiannon Faith and Maddy Morgan in Scary Shit (photo: Tina Remiz)

Rhiannon Faith and Maddy Morgan in Scary Shit (photo: Tina Remiz)

Admittedly you might not invite your young children to a show called Scary Shit, but at first glance the brightly-coloured poster of Maddy Morgan and Rhiannon Faith cavorting on soft fuzzy cubes in an AstroTurf green field might indicate a fun romp for young audiences until you notice the tampon falling from the sky on a parachute and a recommended age limit of 16+ right under the venue and date. On the other hand, as a 16+ theatregoer you might not even consider attending Scary Shit just because the image appears to be aimed at young audiences. It’s a marketing conundrum, for while the image reveals the means by which Morgan and Faith arrive at their goal, it doesn’t prepare you for the goal itself. But that is the nature of Scary Shit: the comic naivety of Alice Barbero’s colours, costumes and props is a deliberate antidote to the maturity of the content about the shared phobias and insecurities of the two women. By the end you are wondering how they drew you so unsparingly into their innermost thoughts while play-acting with a pink telephone, a pink plastic poncho, a water pistol, and red inflatable boxing gloves. You go in the ‘Silly’ door and come out profoundly moved.

The context of Scary Shit is Faith and Morgan’s introduction to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) through the psychologist Joy Griffiths ‘in order to learn more about themselves and maybe, just maybe, find a future free of fear.’ The focus at first is on Faith; she sits on a (pink) throne, her coronet emblem hanging on the (pink) Scary Shit heart above her head. She is holding an oxygen mask to her mouth as Morgan duly pumps air into it from a (pink) foot pump. Morgan has the mien of the put-upon, hard-pressed, underpaid, under-appreciated drudge of a royal hypochondriac, but Faith is too preoccupied by her phobias to entertain delusions of grandeur. She and Morgan recite some of the A-list phobias from Arachibutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth) to Necrophobia (fear of dead people) but Faith’s real phobia is talking on the telephone with unknown people as a result of a traumatic telephone dumping. She relives the guided revisualization Griffiths (who happens to be Faith’s mother-in-law) suggested as therapy, starting with an introduction to CBT in a fight-or-flight sequence with Morgan that resembles an in-flight demonstration. Movements were suggested (so I learned later) by viewing body language filmed during the therapy sessions.

Morgan at this point begins to differentiate her phobia from Faith’s by marking out her own small square of red tape and standing in it; she has not intimated what her phobia is but she demonstrates innocently enough some of her father’s sailor’s knots. While continuing to act as Faith’s sidekick — helping her to illustrate a dry hump during Faith’s story of losing her virginity — we sense a frustration building up inside her as she tells her own story and dances her darkness behind a suspended balloon covered with tangled knots that bears an uncanny resemblance to a brain or a womb. As Faith’s self-confidence and her smutty-mouth returns, she takes on the topic of fertility but her attention (and ours) is drawn to Morgan’s predicament. Faith plays Puccini’s aria, O Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi to calm her down but Morgan steps into her ring wearing the inflatable boxing gloves. At a loss, Faith tries everything from cock jokes to a funny dance get her to talk and after a while she does, reciting a bruisingly personal poem with the refrain, Baby Box Blood Bath, about her periods in which no blood is running. Griffiths’ calming voice returns, Morgan pops the knotted balloon, she and Faith wrap up the bloody remains in the pink poncho like garbage to be thrown out and do breathing exercises on the creaky throne. The audience is absolutely silent.

Like the therapy that underlies it, the superficial appearance of Scary Shit may be an unpalatable or unattractive prospect, but after seeing the performance you may well feel restored, patched up and grateful for the experiences of these two generous, unwitting clowns. Or you may prefer to keep everything knotted up inside like Morgan until it pops. Like all good theatre, Scary Shit offers a cathartic lift for the head and heart.

Scary Shit will be at The Pleasance on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 February at 7:30