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Schlock! review at Rosemary Branch Theatre, London – ‘impenetrable’

Schlock-Rosemary Branch Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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When Fifty Shades of Grey was new in 2011, there were apparently record-breaking library waiting lists for the book.  Five years on, charity shops are saturated with copies of this modern erotic phenomenon and its sequels. Poet and performer Hannah Silva has an idea for how these discarded texts can be put to use: to form part of the set for her one-woman show Schlock! and to be ritually destroyed instead of pulped.

In this mash up of EL James’ ‘mummy porn’ with the punk poet and novelist Kathy Acker’s meditations on pain, Fifty Shades’ Ana and Christian are reconfigured as a mother and son, in a perhaps even more unnerving bondage-based relationship.

Silva sits amid a pile of torn-out pages, devouring the book in her hand with her eyes and her teeth, caressing some pages and viciously ripping out others. A soundtrack of heavy breathing plays in the background and an oppressive odour of incense permeates the auditorium by way of transporting us to a version of Christian Grey’s sex dungeon.

Silva is an intelligent performer with a passion for what she is trying to communicate. The use of sign language and subtitles to make the work accessible is also admirable, but whether Schlock! will provide more pleasure than perplexity to anyone unfamiliar with Kathy Acker’s work is another matter altogether – statements such as a “a child is a talking orgasm” might be considered rapturously poetic by some, or as ridiculous as anything from EL James’ pen by others.

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Fifty Shades mash up overloaded with impenetrable cultural theory