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Expensive Shit review at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘hard hitting’

Jamie Marie Leary in Expensive Shit at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Photo: Sally Jubb Jamie Marie Leary in Expensive Shit at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Photo: Sally Jubb
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The men are invisible in Adura Onashile’s vibrant, hard-hitting four-hander which plunges easily between Fela Kuti’s Shrine club in Lagos in the 1970s and a contemporary Glaswegian night club. In Lagos, young Tolu and her friends come to the toilets to practice their moves in the hope of being noticed and elevated to the band. In Glasgow, older Tolu is the toilet attendant in a club where men pay extra to look through one-way mirrors as women go about their business.

Karen Tennent’s set cleverly frames the stage, viewed as if from behind the mirrors which line the walls of both clubs, so the audience becomes a complicit voyeur, the unseen men. Only the sound – bass beats and Fela Kuti’s lilting Africa 70 – differentiates the sets.

Despite perfectly synchronised, sizzling moves under choreographer Lucy Wild, the Lagos ladies are trapped in their search for a breakthrough. Sex is an openly recognised barter to Sabina Cameron’s mouthy Tolu, and the dancers played by gutsy Teri Ann Bobb Baxter, bolshy Diana Yekinni and innocent Jamie Marie Leary.

Against this, date rape breeds on exploitation and abuse in the Glasgow club. Peaking early in narrative terms and occasionally feeling in want of somewhere to go, this is a howl of rage at male cultures that are complicit and guilty in their abuse of women – but too ashamed to show face.

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Hard-hitting drama that holds a mirror up to exploitation and abuse