Welcome to The Pub. This is the pub in Valletta, Malta, where Oliver Reed died. There is beer, rum and cheese available, and Simply Red are playing on the jukebox. This is where expats come to drink, and Oliver Reed fans come to pay their respects, or buy a merchandised t-shirt or a mug with his face on.
The concept for Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum With Expats seems simple. They were invited by a friend to go to Malta to go on a research holiday, and asked to perform a show for the Valletta European Capital of Culture. They drank rum with expats, and met the locals of The Pub. However, this show is deceptive. It also tackles the huge injustices existent on the island and is a powerful piece of political theatre, cleverly wrapped up in the pretence of being a massive piss up.
The Pub has been faithfully restored on the stage of HOME’s Theatre 2. Sh!t Theatre’s Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole stand behind the bar offering free beer and cheese to the audience, rightfully asking for ID if their punters look younger than 25. Plying their audience with free alcohol creates a jubilant, holiday atmosphere and it becomes clear that you are in for a riotous evening.
Sh!t Theatre’s characteristic style combines performance with video footage and photographs that are projected onto a screen. For the most part, the visual additions are amusing, like the Maltese supermarket where the Virgin Mary watches over the eggs. There is a montage of dogs drinking beer, and the island’s crisis of running out of Nutella biscuits hits the front pages of the newspaper.
The harsh reality of events in Malta is skillfully interjected into this, with images of boats overloaded with migrants, and videos of Syrian refugees being rescued by coastguards. Delivering a powerful political message in unexpected ways, the duo crowd-surf across the audience, but by wearing orange life jackets, they create a striking image of those unlucky migrants who do not survive the perilous Mediterranean crossing. Lifeless migrant bodies floating on the water is a far cry away from the luxury cruise liners that pull into Valetta’s harbour.
These moments of severity are perfectly poised to create a hard hitting antithesis between those who are wealthy and the poor. “If you are come from a rich country, you are an expat. If you are from a poor country, you are deemed an immigrant“.
The political assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is also explored. On the 16th October 2017, Daphne was assassinated in a car bomb close to her home. Nobody has been convicted of her murder. Her death prompted outrage and marches by the Maltese people demanding to know “Who killed Daphne?“. Each night, floral tributes left at her memorial are cleared away by the government, almost like someone is trying to cover their tracks. When she died, Galizia was investigating the sale of EU passports for €650,000 to wealthy businessmen, one of whom was pivotal to Brexit’s Leave campaign. The fact that the rich can buy EU citizenship leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
By juxtaposing comedy with striking moments of stark severity, the show’s mood constantly switches between euphoria and sobriety, disarming the audience so you can’t ever relax and enjoy the show, which is undoubtedly intentional. You never know quite what to expect, and the show is full of surprises, particularly when a real dog called Nala joins her owner on stage.
By drinking rum with expats, Sh!t Theatre have created a wickedly funny show with a poignant political message. Hugely entertaining, yet emotionally distressing at times, they are true masters of their craft, delivering hilarious comedy alongside stark reality that is both hard-hitting and eye-opening.
This is a show that will make you laugh, make you cry, and have you shouting “That’s the d!ck of the bishop!” in Maltese. It is a truly extraordinary piece of theatre.