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Dublin Fringe Festival 2018


Sarah Gordon and Alice Malseed

Genre: Contemporary, Experimental

Venue: Smock Alley Theatre Boys' School


Low Down

A Billy bookcase is one of the most popular items at IKEA. Billy, the play, trades in the notion of object identity, of useless items and the pressure to buy, buy, buy. Or even obtain without paying, because the emphasis isn’t just on spending money, it’s collecting things that no one needs. Why? Because…that’s why. The play interlinks consumerism and the media’s desire to reduce women to buying things and to being things – to buying and being things, like some contorted snake eating its own tail. Between adverts, guessing games, and a lot of awkward cringe-inducing yoga-like exercises, these women will power pose their way to…empowerment?


Billy is a deceptively ordered show, its near overuse of distinctive elements helps to define what appears to be a pile of interlinking ideas rather than a narrative play. Billy begins with the construction of a Billy bookcase. The show is much like this bookcase in that there are parts to it and they will be put together, and it may be slightly tedious and take a few tries to fit in place…because it is from IKEA.

The show is all about the cringe factor. Many comedic moments are funny at first and then become less funny 10 seconds in. By minute two you have to wonder if this is a genius exercise in duration or someone is simply having a stroke. Frankly, it’s polarizing, it’s either going to be something that brings up deep conversation or deep and abiding boredom, either way, this technique will be remembered for a long time coming.

Another tool of the show is lists. The most notable list is a list of useless things. Useless things that must be repeated until even the words sound useless, which of course circles back to our old bedfellow duration. Adverts, especially for women’s things. Women’s things and useless things. Useless women’s things in lists…while doing yoga.

The performance of gender, the ritual of buying, of being sold too, hangs heavy in the air. Yet this open-ended unconventional approach lacks a point of view. The show tackles current social conventions without being didactic but they also fail to be accessible.

These choices are bold and specific but the ultimate message is fuzzy and ill-defined. There is no sense of place, of time, who these women are, who they are to each other. More like a work in progress than progress for the working, Billy is a listicle advert for useless misogyny, a constructivist nightmare, an IKEA bookcase and a durational comedy. GET IT? Good.