We live in a society where there is pressure to look good always, whilst defending the idea that to look good, doesn’t mean women should be objectified or have to fight off unwanted advances in public places with the fear of getting hurt. Yet, we’ve all been there… nights out, wanting to refresh our make-up so head to the toilets with our girls in tow. Whilst in there, we get asked whether we want a spritz of perfume, a lollipop or anything else by the toilet attendant. We notice she’s there, but we never question why or how?
Adura Onashile’s Expensive Shit delves into both worlds of objectification and life’s disappointments. Set and split between The Shrine Nightclub, Lagos in 1994 and a Glaswegian nightclub in 2013, we are taken on a journey of past and present following Tolu’s (Kiza Deen) dream of becoming a young dancer as part of Fela Kuti’s revolutionary band to years later where she is now working as a toilet attendant.
However not all is what it seems on both sides of the coin, when her integrity is challenged. Karen Tennent’s simple thrust stage creation provides a sense of intimacy as well as vulnerability between the characters and audience with there being nowhere to hide and giving an insight of what is to come. We become voyeurs, and with good reason. No warning is given when Tolu walks on stage and she begins to talk; her accent cutting through the atmosphere like a knife as she shares her thoughts and life story.
We find out that Tolu left her family to follow Nigerian musician and political activist, Fela Kuti who opened his home, Kalakuta as a sanctuary for the dispossessed. Fela wanted to separate himself from the Nigerian government and promised freedom and equal treatment to women who wanted to join. It comes to realisation later that the freedom promised is overshadowed by the fact that women were still seen as sexual partners rather than valued individuals. Having her independence and dreams taken from her, Tolu seeks a better life by moving to Glasgow as a toilet attendant in a nightclub. Under the watchful eye of her employer, Tolu is told to undertake certain tasks that would please the male gaze.
To indicate the difference between the locations, a simple change in lighting and music assist the audience. Oranges and bright tropical colours represent The Shrine, whilst blue hues and fluorescent lighting brings us back to the club tunes of this unnamed nightclub in Glasgow.
The story continues to unfold as we are introduced to Woman 1 (Veronica Lewis), Woman 2 (Jamie Marie Leary) and Woman 3 (Maria Yarjah) who all play significant parts in both the past and the present, but it is Woman 1 who really stands out. Shy and out on her first date, her confidence is shattered as her night out turns into nightmare. Knowing that she has assisted in a n unfortunate event, Tolu struggles between guilt of wanting to help Woman 1 understand what has happened to her and having to obey orders to make a living. Veronica Lewis’ emotional breakdown almost brought me to tears as she tries to retrace her steps to remember what really happened on that ill-fated night.
Expensive Shit was intriguing and leaving the theatre had me questioning how many times have I potentially been watched from behind a mirror in a nightclub. Seems hard to be believe, but when you realise it’s inspired by a true event at what lengths will men continue to objectify women for their own pleasure…
Expensive Shit: written and directed by Adura Onashile runs at the Soho Theatre until 22nd April 2017. Find more information and purchase tickets here.