“The Shit/ La Merda”

at Summerhall, Mondau 20th August 2012

In time of anger and protest, it’s surprising how few shows I’ve seen at Edinburgh have attempted to voice the problems of the world. The Shit changes this however, as it shows a woman so angry at the world as she sees it she goes beyond being unable to speak to a new level of articulacy. Silvia  Gallarno’s performance is one of the best of the Fringe, and is utterly absorbing from start to finish.

As we enter, Gallarno sits on a platform, nude and gibbering. The lights dim, and she begins a diatribe against the deity of body image, cursing those who judge her because of how she looks and threatening to “eat” her thighs in order to get back at them. The first theme is then set; she is angry at prevailing inequality in the twenty-first century, and feels as she is allowed to do by her fellow countrymen is to follow the cult. She speaks quickly and passionately, needing increase her words per minute ratio to get out all these extraordinary ideas in the space of an hour.

The next section focusses on advertising, and her desire to star in a TV commercial. She goes to an audition, but is turned down, again because of her looks. Righteousness bubbles to the surface, as she explains the hypocrisy we must all experience as we learn to live in a Western society, believing in community and selflessness but being forced to look after ourselves.

At the end of each ‘act’, Gallarno’s voice rises to a deafening crescendo, before the lights black out to allow her and us a breather and time to digest what’s just happened. The next part moves to discuss fellow Italians and the way in which we in the West talk to and react to one another. She constantly feels disconnected and judged, highlighted by her nudity, and comes to realise it is simply not possible to continue to live in this way. She loves her country, but not how it is.

Gallarno switches from character to character without it ever seeming farcical, and eyeballs us to force us to listen. The anger in her voice remains constant, but there are also moments of pain, softness and humour, leading audiences to follow her every step of the way. The screams she omits at the end of each section are truly guttural, and embody everything she is trying to say. When words have been used up, this seems like the only solution.

A quote on the hand-out given at the end reads “The role of the artist is to make revolution irresistible” (Bambara). After watching The Shit for an hour, we may not feel like taking up our pitchforks, but there is no doubt a heavy realisation sets in that this anger cannot go unnoticed. It must be harnessed for a greater good, and Gallarno’s thoughts are merely a catalyst to achieve shared understanding and rhetoric. More than that, however, The Shit is a powerful, hard-hitting and brutally raw piece of theatre. The political anger allows this beauty to exist, and vice versa.

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