It is always risky taking something intensely personal and placing it on stage, warts and all, in front of an audience. Scary Shit does just that. Rhiannon Faith and Maddy Morgan have used their experiences with psychotherapy to create an hour-long hotchpotch of confessional stand-up, poetry and dance. It is an unflinchingly honest and highly symbolic show about two women overcoming their fears, which may well contain some therapeutic quality for performers and audience alike. Sadly, though, it offers little more than that.
On a stage littered with a miscellany of bright pink, fluffy objects, Faith and Morgan delve deep, recalling their therapy and confronting their fears once again. Faith, an effervescent, lycra-wearing shock of bubble-gum pink hair, is the more communicative of the two, hurrying proceedings along with a childlike precociousness. Morgan, sullen to the point of imperiousness, slouches around behind her, muttering monosyllabic replies and only bursting into life in her frequent bouts of dance. The two have faint glimmers of on-stage chemistry, but there is a stuttering hesitancy to their patter – presumably intentional – that severely douses any genuine spark.
Over the course of an hour, the pair cover a range of subjects in various mediums: Morgan returns repeatedly to a jerky, contorted dance that somehow has links to infertility; Faith recites a poem about the conflict she feels between starting a family and pursuing her career; both women, lying flat on their backs, unhurriedly recount how they lost their virginities. All these ‘sections’ are littered with unapologetically graphic language, mostly sexual, with the leitmotif of female fertility recurring again and again. If nothing else, Scary Shit is a forceful reminder of just how traumatic the pressures placed on women in contemporary society can be.
There is a certain courage to the piece, and the two performers’ willingness to share their experiences is undoubtedly commendable, but the unavoidable truth is that Scary Shit is rarely compelling and seldom entertaining. Faith and Morgan appear too self-conscious on stage and their various acts show imagination, but lack any development beyond that. It does feel cruel to criticise the show for lack of polish, especially given how impressively unpretentious and frank Faith and Morgan are, but all too often they are simply two grown women in extravagant costumes, playing about on stage like children. This supreme lack of cohesion grows so unspeakably tedious after 30 minutes that the second half-hour is spent with one eye on the clock.
Perhaps with more work and a few runs at fringe festivals like Edinburgh and Brighton, Scary Shit can become something altogether more enjoyable. At present, though, that feels a long way off.
Scary Shit played at the Pleasance Theatre until 27 February . For more information, see Rhiannon Faith’s website. Photo: Tina Remiz