An apocalyptic extravaganza

By: Sep. 29, 2023

Review: FRANKIE THOMPSON & LIV ELLO: BODY SHOW, Soho Theatre Body Show is an apocalyptic, gender-bending, drag-infused spectacular tackling dysphoria and eating disorders head-on. Fresh from their hit Fringe run, individual performance artists Frankie Thompson (Catts) and Liv Ello (Swarm) bring their collaborative show to London, presenting something both thought-provoking and a whole lot of fun.

As you enter Soho Theatre’s intimate upstairs space, Thompson and Ello are centre stage, frozen in place as wedding cake toppers - with one in a frilly pink dress and the other in a suit, they’re the very picture of comfortably heterosexual life and gender conformity. This, however, is exactly what they spend the rest of the show dismantling. Body Show uses a mixture of drag, lip-sync, verbatim theatre, and physical comedy to explore our relationships to our bodies through a new lens.

Where the performance especially shines is in its unexpected use of pop culture, making the familiar into something outrageous. Particularly memorable is a sequence combining The Last Supper with reality show The Traitors, as well as a lip-sync number to clips from The Great British Bake Off. It’s fantastically British, but in a way that celebrates all things camp, rather than there being any hint of patriotism. 

Thompson and Ello are both instantly charismatic performers, making something very weird very accessible. Both are given solo moments to shine, as well as demonstrating a great rapport. Their writing and performances are complimented by Cara Evans’ larger-than-life set design, as we see everything from a giant wedding cake to Barbie doll boxes. There’s also clever use of video projection, a constant reminder of the endless stream of media we encounter every day. At its heart, Body Show is about pop culture's obsession with bodies and its impact on individuals - immersing us in this digital world goes a long way to acheive this. 

At times, however, the show itself feels a little disjointed, like a constant stream of media itself. It’s a pink and blue sensory overload that could do with a little more of a through-line. The ideas Thompson and Ello are exploring have so much potential, and the connection between, as the tagline goes, "dystopia and dysmorphia and dysphoria" is instantly intriguing. Perhaps with a clearer initial premise, each of the segments would have more of an overall impact and the points the show is making would hit home harder.

Nonetheless, Body Show is a show with a surprising amount of heart. Underneath its glitzy, over-the-top exterior are very real stories of society’s obsession with gendered bodies - one focus point is that of child star Lena Zavaroni, a tale with sombering relevance. This, combined with a final scene that jolts us back into the real world, keeps the show grounded.

Soho Theatre have developed a reputation for presenting a consistently fantastic programme of Edinburgh Fringe transfers, and this year is looking to be no different. Body Show sold out most of its run at the Fringe, garnering numerous glowing reviews - with its endless creativity, winning performances, and bold honesty, it’s not hard to see why.

Frankie Thompson & Liv Ello: Body Show runs at Soho Theatre (Upstairs) until 14 October

Image Credit: Jonny Ruff

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From This Author - Katie Kirkpatrick

Katie is a director/producer/critic based between Oxford and London, and the co-founder of Love Song Productions. She is the 2023 winner of the Fringe Young Writer of the Year Award. She loves qu... Katie Kirkpatrick">(read more about this author)



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