Before I go any further with this review, let’s get the formalities out of the way. Shit Mix is not a bad play, and I commend Leo Richardson for getting his first work this far.*
But does it really belong in the West End? Even at groovy funky Trafalgar Studios? No. No, it really doesn’t. Shit Mix (a slang term for what we yanks call a suicide cocktail) is a strictly by the book tick-box example of derivative youth theatre, and while it would be at home on the Oval House or Almeida’s (excellent) programmes for youth targeted works and audiences, it fails completely at reaching the teenage audience it so desperately seeks here. I saw this play on a Saturday night and I’d guess that a third of the audience were under 30. I was too lazy to try (and it’s increasingly hard to be certain), but I’m pretty sure I could have counted the actual under 18’s without needing to go past my figurative fingers. Of course, ticket prices are higher on weekends, but concession rates are the same, so I stand by my argument.
Onto the play itself. Wannabe chav LB has the hots for gothiloli Raggedy Anne but they’re too shy to tell each other. Obviously closeted friend Bent Ben is a go-between keeping everybody happy but he secretly fancies LB’s older brother Harry the Hottie who has a BIG SECRET. It’s the same BIG SECRET that you get in most teen plays so no points for guessing. Of course slutty girl Dirty Debbie fancies Harry as well but settles for prostituting herself to LB for £6.50 and a plate of chips.** In between these escapades everybody meets in the park, consumes mass quantities of alcohol, screws around, and substitutes internal monologues for interpretative dance. It’s a nice gimmick, and combined with Samantha Potter’s direction keeps the show moving along, but the upbeat choreographed curtain call set to the title song from Dreamgirls is unnecessary and contradicts the more downbeat ending.
All in all, I’m not really sure what the point of Shit Mix’s current run is. Teens aren’t going (it’s cheaper and hipper to get a DVD from Blockbuster) and there’s nothing in it for adults who aren’t nostalgic for a miserable time in most peoples’ lives or trying to understand “those darn kids today.” I suppose it’s all rather hypocritical of me to be saying this as well - I’m not that old, and I loved Dog Sees God (which recently ran in Manchester, though I saw the Off Broadway run) which covers almost identical territory but at least had the twist of subversively filtering its cliches through beloved childhood icons. With a veritable flood of exceptional productions running in the city right now, it seems a waste for grownups to go and see this.
*This is the internet, not a family friendly newspaper, so no, I'm not giving in to using asterisks.
**I wish I were making up these names and events, but they are in fact real parts of the show. The names are even displayed in the form of back-lit pop art.
Where: Trafalgar Studios 2
When: Until 25 October, M-Sa @ 19:45
How Much: £15 M/Th(Mat)/Sa(Mat), £22.50 all other performances
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £10. Fringe price for a fringe show and what you’ll pay for less-choice performance times at TKTS.
RZ Other Notes: For those wishing to be spoiled, the tick boxes here are: popular kid, closeted gay, suicide, goth kid, slut, drugs, boozing, party life, dissolving friendships, pop culture references, character fails at their art, the bad kid, no visible adults, scuffy costumes, generic “this could be anywhere” setting, profanity, big central event. Now, am I talking about Shit Mix, Dog Sees God, or this week’s runs of Neighbours and Hollyoaks?