THEATRE REVIEW: Shopping & F***ing

WORTH A LOOK?: ***

WHERE?: Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith

WHEN: 15/10 (matinee), runs to 5/11

Author Mark Ravenhill was co-creator of ITV sitcom Vicious and this was his first play, now 21 years old, which caused quite the stir in the 90s.

  • Read on for the lowdown on whether Shopping and F***ing stands up two decades later

We never saw the original production, which originated at the Royal Court Upstairs, but we’re thinking this Lyric Theatre re-imagining is faithful as this world of rimming, E and anal rape recalls the heady 90s when Trainspotting, Queer As Folk and Britpop were all the rage.

In Shopping and F***ing we meet couple Robbie (a floppy-fringed and aloof Alex Arnold) and Lulu (a terrifyingly single-minded and ready meals-obsessed Sophie Wu) who live with the older Mark (a tortured Sam Spruell) who’s falling for the much younger Gary (David Moorst, giving us camp mixed with heartbreak and despair).

We also meet Brian (Ashley McGuire, providing an almost religious fervour rooted in violence) who sets Robbie and Lulu the task of raising £3,000 in a short period or face death. Shopping and F***ing is about a youth who believe in nothing but the title and, essentially, become their own brands. In a word dominated by social media 20 years on, it’s prescient.

We weren’t so keen on Sean Holmes’ direction which throws everything but the kitchen sink at the material: a green screen, cameras, a multi-screen wall, more bodily fluid than one could ever wish to see and even body paint to make one character appear part of the projection.

Audience members keen to take to the stage will have many opportunities here and it’s worth knowing beforehand that it is the actual cast selling badges to the audience for 50p ahead of the show.

Did you know most of the characters share their names with Take That? Back For Good is one of the songs featured as karaoke and it is in the original 90s soundtrack that this production works best.

Shopping and F***ing is definitely worth a look in hindsight and does give a sense of how much has shifted in the interim. Probably not one to take nan to though.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. Tickets
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