Rating: ★★★ (3 stars)
Play: Shopping and F***ing
Playwright: Mark Ravenhill
Where to buy: Shopping & F***ing
Summary: The plot follows a crowd of drifters and sex traders in a seedy area of London in the 1990s. Five main characters are linked loosely and intermittently and at the centre of the play is an ever-changing love triangle of petty criminals. (Source: Goodreads)
Content Warnings: drug abuse, threat, violence, rape, blood, sexual abuse, explicit sexual language/curses.
N.B. I have also seen this play so my review will encompass my understanding of both experiences.
What I liked…
The playwright was definitely onto something. The state of society is shocking, disgusting, and unfair, and these characters are aware of it – some more than others. The first character to realise the corruption of the self is Mark, the somewhat central character of Ravenhill’s disconcerting play, and he attempts to do something about his life. This is the only character who attempts to do something relatively normal in the play.
His “flatmates”, Robbie and Lulu, are quite relatable as they struggle with finding a purpose in a society revolves around money. Robbie, in particular, delivers a heartfelt monologue about the state of society:
I was looking down on this planet. Spaceman over this earth. And I see this kid in Rwanda, crying, but he doesn’t know why. And this granny in Kiev, selling everything she’s ever owned. And this president in Bogota or … South America. And I see the suffering. And the wars. And the grab, grab, grab.
And I think: Fuck Money. Fuck it. This selling. This buying. This system. Fuck the bitching world and let’s be … beautiful. Beautiful. And happy. You see?
There are several other moments like this throughout the play, and those particular moments made the play stay with me for a lot longer after reading.
What I disliked…
In-Yer-Face theatre is either a hit or miss. There are so many vulgar and sexual expletives and references that I found the text overwhelming to read at times. I found Mark rather boring compared to Robbie, Lulu, and Gary, his character just went full cycle and that was that. Perhaps that was Ravenhill’s intention.
Why did I read it?
Having seen the play, I wanted to experience the monologues that moved me again.
Does the playwright have other works?
Mark Ravenhill has written several other plays, Handbag, Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat, and Some Explicit Polaroids.
If you like challenging, disturbing drama, then this play is for you.
– Melissa Jennings