Art, Culture, Entertainment, News

Is This Thing On? @ Contact Theatre review – raw, outstanding and heartwarming

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Featured image: Aaron Shaw

‘Is This Thing On?’ is a unique debut show, a product of the creative collaboration between Ellie Campbell, Megan Keaveney (MissMatch), and the So La Flair theatre company. Following its debut appearance at Contact Theatre, the show promises to be a memorable experience for those attending the tour across Wigan, Leeds, Liverpool and Wakefield.

The performance follows best friends and flatmates, Liz (Ellie) and Mary (Megan), as they navigate their twenties in London. While tensions run high between the duo, the audience is plunged into the middle of an open mic night. 

The performance opens with just two small stages on each side of the room. As the two actors take their places, the audience hears ambient sounds of clinking glasses and muffled conversation. Although Campbell and Keaveney are the only actors, the show doesn’t feel small at all. They fill the room with an electric stage presence, and I find my eyes darting between them, not wanting to miss a minute. The duo’s acting is so outstanding that I even forget I’m watching a show, instead it’s more like watching two mates converse. 

As a piece of feminist theatre, it perfectly touches on themes that many women struggle with daily. The raw conversations between Liz and Mary highlight flaws within the characters and society, which is conveyed in a series of songs, rap, and spoken word. Throughout the show, we find that Liz and Mary have completely different outlooks on life and feminism, which is starting to affect their friendship, and healthy debate suddenly turns sour. 

The lighting and overhead sound particularly stand out. With a smaller stage and a limited selection of props, conveying the story to the audience can be difficult, but the lighting is changed to match the characters’ mood, elevating the performance. Ellie’s songs also stand out – her voice paired with the themes left me with goosebumps. 

Despite the hard-hitting themes, it presents a heartwarming tale of two friends coming to grips with living together and finding their place in the world, a story that resonates with everyone. I left the theatre feeling proud to be a woman, and it sparked a conversation about feminism with my own flatmate who also attended.

MissMatch and So La Flair are definitely ones to watch, having recently announced they’ll be at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. ‘Is This Thing On?’ will next be performed at Wigan’s Trencherfield Mill on 25th April.

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Amber Bermingham

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