Inspired by their super fan obsession, DOLLYWOULD is a bold, bouncy and bonkers celebration of all things Dolly Parton
Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit of Sh!t Theatre have never really been conventional. Whether it’s tackling the housing crisis in LETTERS TO WINDSOR HOUSE or with shaking up history with SHE BANGS THE DRUMS, the award-winning performance duo are famed for pushing the boundaries in wild and wacky ways. Their latest show DOLLYWOULD is no exception, even if the pair do describe it as their “mainstream crossover hit”.
Inspired by their super fan obsession for Dolly Parton and their desire to create something for ‘fun’, DOLLYWOULD is a bold, bouncy and bonkers celebration of all things Dolly. Using their recent pilgrimage to Parton’s amusement park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee as a framing device, the 60 minute show is a mishmash of multimedia, song, storytelling and mime, which not only explores the life of country legend, but also makes clever observations about society, gender, branding, immortality and death.
Those who have seen Sh!t Theatre before will know that much of the joy in their productions lies in the wild and wacky ways in which they raise questions. Bounding onto stage in skimpy outfits with their faces painted white, the pair gradually dress up like Dolly – or at least a drag version of her – to eventually become both Dolly Parton and Dolly the sheep. Here, Mothersole and Biscuit mix duets of a cappella answers from Parton interviews, with a slide show their pilgrimage to Dollywood and a rather bizarre but brilliant baaaa’d cover of ISLANDS IN THE STREAM.
But beyond the silliness is an ironic ambivalence. While the pair openly admit they “f***ing love Dolly!” they also deconstruct Parton’s brand, her aggressive self-branding and the rumours about her sexuality. As the conversation turns to body image, the pair cut holes in their T-shirts to expose their breasts and we are reminded how the singer is constantly critiqued because of her looks, hounded by the press about her weight, her bust measurements and her Barbie doll-like figure.
The body image association continues as the pair talk about visiting another nearby ‘attraction’ whilst in the US, an FBI research facility known as the ‘Body Farm’ where scientists study human decay. Just like Dollywood, you can buy plenty of branded memorabilia here – which is disturbingly similar to that on sale in the theme park – and Sh!t Theatre has fun smashing together images of Dollywood and Body Farm merchandise, as images of Dolly’s well-preserved body are juxtaposed with images of decomposing bodies.
Any die-hard Dolly fans expecting a straightforward tribute show will be in for a little bit of a shock with DOLLYWOOD as the show spirals off in a number of wacky and unpredictable directions. The wild and messy structure of the show also means it lacks the narrative focus of their previous work, most notably last year’s hit LETTERS TO WINDSOR HOUSE.
That said, there is plenty to enjoy here and lots of laugh-out-loud moments which just add to the madness. You also can’t fault the pair for their fresh, energetic and comedic performance, who, like the audience, just have fun with the piece.
DOLLYWOULD runs at HOME, Manchester until 5 May 2018
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.