The Guardian / La Merda: Extraordinary, Terrifying and Hard to Ignore
Extraordinary, Terrifying and Hard to Ignore
di Lyn Gardner, The Guardian, 22 April 2014
★★★★ Soho theatre, London
This startling monologue on body image, fame and politics is performed with mesmerising bravery by a naked Silvia Gallerano
She sits on a small, raised metal platform, like an object on display. She has her back to us, and she is completely naked. She is as small as a child, her hair done up in top-knots like a toddler. She croons quietly to herself. When she turns, her mouth is a gash of red like a wound. She starts to vomit words, and once she starts she seems unable to stop.
There’s a hint of Beckett’s Not I in Cristian Ceresoli’s three-part monologue, a startling satire on body image, fame and politics performed with mesmerising bravery by Silvia Gallerano. It’s hard to take your eyes off Gallerano’s large, mobile mouth, but it’s her vulnerable naked body that becomes a map of the character’s emotional pain as with a fixed, bright smile she tells us of an obsession with what she perceives as her outsized thighs, the looming shadow of her dead father and her determination to achieve fame and success as a TV celebrity. Even if it means eating faeces.
The particular application to Italian politics and society may remain obscure, despite the final image of Gallerano’s body wrapped in the Italian flag, but there’s no doubting the pulsating power and anger of the play. Just as Not I gives voice to the voiceless, so this hour offers up the psychic pain and distress and self-loathing of a young woman living in a world where celebrity and consumerism erode self-worth, who can only cry out in protest as she is forced to cannibalise herself.
This show will not be to everyone’s taste, and I first caught it in 2012 at Edinburgh, where acoustics conspired to scupper some of its impact and meaning. There are no such difficulties now. Gallerano is quite simply extraordinary and terrifying in her undefended defiance. Hard to watch. Hard to ignore.
- Until 4 May, then touring. Box office: 020-7478 0100. Venue: Soho theatre, London.