If you’ve ever tucked your skirt into your knickers without realising it, fallen flat on your face in front of the object of your desires or declared your undying love to an almost stranger after one too many double rum and cokes then help is on hand in the form of the Bush theatre’s new production Suddenlossofdignity.com.
The theory goes that if we can insure our belongings, our health and even our pets, then why can’t we insure our dignity? Setting up a website, the theatre asked people to submit their loss of dignity stories. In return they would receive two stories to make themselves feel better about their moment of humiliation. The show works like this on a bigger scale, with the cast performing a selection of the best stories submitted – which have been adapted into short plays by Bush playwrights – and reading a nightly arbitrary mix of tales picked at random from the piles of paper scattered around the stage.
The tales are performed as a series of short sketches by Kathryn Drysdale, Katie Lyons, Felix Scott and Hugh Skinner, who use a small selection of props to transform themselves from drunk West country yobs, to upper class idiots at a school reunion, to 20-somethings with an unhealthy interest in Westlife. Many stories and characters are cringe-inducingly familiar, recalling those red-faced experiences all of us have pushed firmly to the back of our minds.
From the mortifying elements of childbirth that no one tells you about, to the moment your ipod plays that song you really shouldn’t own in front of the person you’re desperately trying to impress, the stories are sometimes vulgar, sometimes sweet, but mainly very silly and all the better for it.
Suddenlossofdignity.com doesn’t ignore the other side of the spectrum, however; black comedy is combined with sincerity in poignant monologues that tell us of the indignity of death, while sensitive subjects that other productions of this nature might shy away from are here delivered like a punch in the stomach, in contrast to the general lightness of the evening.
The Bush theatre tells us that in this time of recession and societal woes, with expenses scandals and redundancy in the air, it is even more imperative we should be able to insure our dignity. But secretly I think the Bush felt it was more important to create a show that would put a smile on audiences’ faces and reassure people that they’re not the only ones making it up as they go along, even if it is sometimes to the detriment of our ever-bruised pride.