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Domestic Bits
Published on Monday, 07 May 2012

2 stars

Marlborough Theatre (venue website)
4-6 May, 5:00pm-6:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.
 World Premiere.

Double bill Domestic Bits was born in the University of Brighton - and for performer Katie Richardson, it's just one step on the long creative road to an MA later this year. As a stage of that journey, I hope and believe it will succeed; as a stand-alone show, it's a little too dominated by its flaws. Richardson's character, Lotta Quizeen, is inspired by the outer perfection and inner turmoil of the original domestic goddess Fanny Craddock – and so, it's entirely appropriate that the opening piece has echoes of a fading cookery show.

At times it was very funny, especially when the focus turned on the minor inconveniences of running a home, and there were a few genuinely rib-tickling lines to punctuate what was essentially a series of sketches. But if Richardson is going to play for laughs – and, make no mistake, some of the gags are shameless innuendo – she'd do well to pick up the pace a bit; wasted moments, handling props for example, did a lot to drag down the mood.

There's a serious point to it, of course, for Quizeen's domestic life isn't quite as blissful as it seems. Amidst the humour, there's a theme of atrophy, of faltering love, of simply growing old. The celebration of age-old sexist values is plainly ironic, but it's tricky to pull out a subtler message; I'm sure the signals are there, but their full meaning evaded me. It's impossible, though, to overlook the expressive talent of Richardson's co-creator, The Artist Spike – who creates a fully-drawn, characterful persona for Quizeen's husband, despite the fact he's silent for the entire piece.

The Artist Spike returns alone in the unrelated second piece, White Rabbit, which sees him dress in a suitably big-eared costume to act out the tale of an animal and a gramophone. I admit I'm a little out of my depth here – performance art isn't really my thing – but from the point of view of a naïve theatre-goer, there was plenty to pique the interest but not quite enough to hold it.

There is something poignant about the rabbit's affinity with (or curiosity about?) his nostalgic record player, and my head was filled with pleasingly unanswerable questions about just what he’s doing and what he’s feeling inside. For me, though, there wasn't enough development from concept to concept to properly draw me in, and I felt I'd got pretty much all I was going to get from the piece about halfway through.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.