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A reviews round-up for Shopping and Fucking at Lyric Hammersmith.

Twenty years after it created a storm at the Royal Court Theatre, Olivier Award-winning director Sean Holmes brings Mark Ravenhill’s provocative first play Shopping and Fucking back to the stage.

In an explosive new production starring Alex Arnold, Ashley McGuire, David Moorst, Sam Spruell and Sophie Wu, Shopping and Fucking is a mixture of black humour and bleak philosophy.

The play follows three disconnected young adults whose lives have been reduced to a series of transactions in an emotionally shrink wrapped world. A place where Shopping is sexy and Fucking is a job.

Shopping and Fucking runs from 7 October 2016 until 5 November 2016 at the Lyric Hammersmith.

Here’s a round-up of reviews from The Guardian, The Telegraph, Evening Standard and The Stage.

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REVIEWS ROUND-UP

STAR RATING The Guardian

“Ravenhill’s play is both distinctly of its time, in the way it skewered the bleakness of Thatcher’s legacy on a generation of youngsters, and yet also prophetic. It neatly reflects the anxieties and monetary obsessions of youngsters living in a post-financial crash world where you are what you own; where even intimacy comes at a terrible price or must be avoided at all costs; and where loneliness is corrosive.”

“It both plays to a new generation’s savviness in knowing that everyone is trying to sell them something, and sadness that they are duped over and over.”

“Holmes’s production is a little too calculating and has a touch too much of the Flash Harry about it to allow room for you to really feel for the characters or allow the comedy to surface. For all the many pleasures of Ashley McGuire’s performance –dressed in white like a particularly menacing TV evangelist – it sometimes feels as if the devil has been allowed the most entertaining tunes.”

Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

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STAR RATING Time Out

“Holmes’s frenetically maximalist production, which sets the action in a faux TV studio, ladles on flourish after flourish – karaoke interludes, audience interaction, having the cast try and sell us stuff – kind of makes the whole thing come across as some sort of acid-drenched collision of ‘The Word’ and the QVC shopping channel.”

‘Shopping and Fucking’ deserves a twentieth-anniversary revival. I’m not sure it deserves to be a guinea pig for Sean Holmes’s ’90s fixation.”

Andrezej Lukowski, TimeOut

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STAR RATING Evening Standard

“This revival by Sean Holmes is less immediately shocking than the 1996 production, but it’s still a bracing example of a piece that suits its style to its subject. Depicting the empty hedonism of four aimless young people who live on a diet of cruelty and takeaways, it’s vulgar, overstated, nihilistic and preeningly self-obsessed — and knows it.”

“The design, by Jon Bausor and Tal Rosner, calls to mind the amusement arcade on a cruise ship — and the soundtrack punches the audience with Nineties anthems, queasily pitched to invite both mockery and nostalgia.”

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

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STAR RATING The Daily Telegraph

“Sean Holmes’s new production shows that, as our youth face an even more uncertain future than they did in the relative calm of the Nineties, Shopping and F***ing is more relevant than ever.”

“Although Holmes chooses to keep the play in its original setting, he has tried to spruce things up with some innovations which diminish the power of Ravenhill’s writing. Interactive elements and bursts of karaoke are unnecessary attempts to refurbish a still potent work. Particularly grating is the finale, in which the cast unite in a rendition of Take That’s Back for Good.”

“The performances are variable with several of the players resorting to cartoon-like approximations of anger and confusion, although Moorst is touching as rent boy Gary and here becomes the emotional heart of the play. What lingers is Ravenhill’s skill as a playwright. He’s wickedly funny and intellectually questing.”

Ben Lawrence , Daily Telegraph

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STAR RATING The Stage

“Aptly brash but oddly remote revival of Mark Ravenhill’s iconic but rarely staged play.”

“As a text, while it feels prescient in places, it’s also very much a thing of its time; certainly Holmes’ production makes it feel like an artefact. There are snatches of the Shamen’s Ebeneezer Goode and Take That (the people in the play, famously, are named after members of the boy band). There are Nintendo sound effects and a weird sheen of school-disco nostalgia. In this play where everything is transactional, even memories can be boxed up and sold to us.”

“The performances are all strong. David Moorst is unexpectedly moving and vulnerable as a broken boy, accustomed to abuse, while Ashley McGuire (excellent, as ever) speaks with the potency of a preacher as drug dealer Brian. Interestingly it’s left to a member of the audience to read out the last passage of the text.”

Mark Shenton, The Stage

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