Sh!t Theatre’s Drink Rum With Expats is an alcohol fuelled cornucopia of corruption, devastation and political intrigue. This hour long dramatisation is fresh from its Edinburgh run and tells the tale of Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole’s adventures in Malta. The journey starts innocently enough but gradually events take a turn for the worse.
The stage is designed to look like a pub. A working pub. It’s adorned with Union Jacks and the backdrop has an imposing projection that shows an England football game, from, I believe, the 1970s. The theatre is teaming. Audience members leap in joyous merriment as they dance to Simply Red’s Fairground while being served drinks from the bar. During the infectious chorus the lyrics appear on screen – think Karaoke; during which maps appear – Malta, Libya, stills of migrants in make-shift boats battling against adverse weather conditions.
This is a political performance disguised as chaos or is it chaos disguised as political performance?
It’s clear that Rebecca and Louise are passionate about the political subject matter, their well-drilled and rehearsed delivery is infectious. But the message is hidden so deep in an outer narrative that I was always left wanting more. I have to put my cards on the table. I’m addicted to current affairs and I love documentaries. The less fuss the better.
This production wears its irreverence like a badge of honour, we’re constantly propelled like a fairground waltzer between Maltese translations of rude English words and drive to consume ever more ‘drink’. Yes, there are songs. Shanti songs. There are soliloquies and poems but all pale into insignificance when the real meat of the show is addressed – the corruption and migrant scandal that besets the Island of Malta
Periodically and with ever more detail we’re exposed to the plight of migrants off the coast of Malta. Deaths are either hushed up or floating vessels denied refuge. Ironically and simultaneously there are reports of ‘golden visa’ schemes – this is where the wealthy pay a fee in exchange for a fast-track Maltese naturalisation. With that comes an EU passport.
I’m not totally devoid of a sense of humour and as a result I found the interlude references to Oliver Reed a welcome relief. We’re informed that he passed away in the very same Valletta bar after consuming a marathon amount of alcohol. But even this comedic segway after a while feels like rubber-necking a motorway accident.
★ ★ ★
But while I was left wanting more, Rebecca and Louise were rewarded with a standing ovation, their brand of humour and politics clearly has a following that’s worth seeing at least once.
Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum With Expats is at Home, Manchester from 26-28 September 2019 as part of Orbit Festival. Please not there is an age recommendation of 16 plus for this production. This production contains distressing themes and images covering topics including migration & political assassination. There is a dog onstage. If you need more information before the show, please feel free to contact the company at firstname.lastname@example.org