We are subject to a daily onslaught of images and information from advertising, social media, television, music, film, the list goes on and on. Media dominates our lives and shapes how we see the world around us. Young people are particularly vulnerable in the face of it. Sh!t Theatre’s critically acclaimed show Women’s Hour mimics this onslaught, with a quick paced,
ferocious pick and mix of text, music, movement and images. Their selection, and there must have been so much to choose from, showcases the objectification of women from the everyday, banal and insidious to the violent and disturbingly unchallenged. It’s not a few images in a sea of positive and balanced things, it’s not one billboard offering bikini waxing for children, it’s a representation of the vast majority of depictions of women. When you shine a spotlight on it and cram it all into a single hour, it’s overwhelming.
What we see through Sh!t Theatre’s theatrical lens is the way in which the media belittles, patronises, and sells women and their bodies. Through achingly relentless comedy, clowning and songs, we are subjected to appalling advertisements Barbie dolls, adverts that sexualise children in the fashion industry and the movie industry, songs about getting girls pregnant and the obscene and frightening comments left on youtube videos. It’s traumatic. The juxtaposition of charming and hilarious physical and visual comedy with the escalation of the dehumanisation of women unsettles and infuriates the audience in equal measure. It’s a powerful technique, and these two performers deliver it expertly.
The company leave no media format untouched, and no age group either, Radio 4’s is a consistent and obvious target, laughing openly at the absurdity of a single hour for women in 24 each day, the inability of presenters to talk to women without asking about motherhood or shoes. Through what could almost be described as sketch based snippets, we explore R Kelly lyrics, gender specific Kinder eggs and the luxury tampon tax. It’s not just women laughing in the audience, although it is likely that it is mostly women squirming at the uncomfortable recognition of their own complicity in the media world that oppresses them. I feel it myself when I laugh painfully at a cosmetics advert for a product I know I have in my bathroom.
What frustrates the older audience members I talk to is that the talented young duo shed light on the disappointing lack of change in society. That young women continue to need to make work like this is a problem, but the work they make is vital and motivating. This is no lecture and there is no call to action at the end, the show simply stops as the performers run out of their allotted hour long time slot. However, I leave the theatre with muscles aching from laughter and a deeply uncomfortable feeling in the bottom of my stomach, something akin to outrage.