SPILL, Pleasance Theatre - Review

Verbatim theatre – the use of real, recorded conversations to drive the narrative of a show – has been increasingly popular in recent years. Exponents of the discipline like Alecky Blythe have created community-based projects such as London Road and Little Revolution, while Chris Goode's Monkey Bars viewed the world of adults through the eyes of children. Propolis Theatre – an 11-strong group who are based in Bristol – have with their latest show Spill created a verbatim piece that chronicles the inception of sexual activity among young people. Framed within the setting of a house party, each of the cast breaks away at junctures from the ensemble with their thoughts on a specific experience, or sometimes offers an alternative point of view of a topic from the person who previously spoke.

Asides from verbatim text, live music,  puppetry and movement are used by Propolis to explore this, the most potentially alarming of subjects. In terms of the young people interviewed, there was a cross section from many different backgrounds (very little/no experience to very active) as well as homosexual experiences to break up the heteronormative assumptions.

As you would expect, the nature of the questioning led to some very frank answers. As clued up as I like to think I am, even I was surprised at some of the responses – not just the age when male/females first thought about the opposite sex in a non-platonic way (some pre-adolescent), but actually acted on their impulses. One could almost take with a pinch of salt the 'men' talking about their first time and put it down to bravado, but the girls talking about when they first noticed the male gaze certainly rang true and as was their later realisation that through their appearance, they had 'power' over males. If nothing else, it's interesting to hear the intensity of interest from the nascent female labido versus its more experienced and more circumspect equivalent that has been shaped by social attitudes.

At the end of the day, Propolis have succeeded in creating a piece of non-didactic theatre with humour and insightfulness, that depicts the ambivalent tensions within the Skins generation.

© Michael Davis 2016

Spill ran at the Pleasance Theatre from 10-12 June 2016, but will preview at The Wardrobe Theatre on 1-2 July in Bristol, before making its way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.



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