Appropriately named The Scungebags, the clowning trio of Angela Fouhy, Freya Finch, and Elle Wootton have created a wonderfully weird piece of theatre. Framed as a boundary-pushing sketch show created by a British pop trio, The Baby Girls, Maggot is immediately odd and resists easy categorisation. Performing distinct archetypes (deadpan, sexy, enthusiastic) with more than a few shades of the Spice Girls, the show employs their innate idiosyncrasies to perfect use, from vocal inflections to exaggerated gaits.
These archetypes aren’t deconstructed so much as put to over-the-top use, pushing cliches into strange and unexpected areas through a combination of dance and clown. But the show’s most subversive moments play on our expectations of narrative and cliches. Clowning, like surrealism, works best when it defamiliarises the familiar rather than being weird for the sake of weird (though there’s definitely plenty of entertainment value in that). And while some of the jokes have a satirical edge, the overall tone is of parody rather than deep meaning. But as parodies go, it’s a loving one that could only have been made by passionate practitioners. Taking the piss because they care, rather than out of any loathing of the form.
The main draw, and perhaps flaw, is the relentless what-the-fuck factor running through the show, each sketch trying to out-do the last, getting sillier and sillier. It’s a theatrical game of one-upmanship that has more than a little bit of John Waters in its DNA. The subjects it covers are highly esoteric, ranging from the bane of public transport, Andrew Lloyd Webber, cheerleading, ratfights and Katy Perry. At the same time, it would be accurate to say it has nothing to do with any of these things at all.
Though not all of the sketches find the perfect balance between surreal and comedic, there’s hardly a dull moment. The overarching narrative of being plays-within-a-play also cleverly supply a narrative anchor for the audience when the digressions and lack of structure might be too much otherwise.
While not as disgusting as the title might have you believe, there is a gleefully anarchic sensibility that holds the show together – less carefully stitched and more playfully glued. Committed performances and a savvy sense of audience interaction give this gratuitously goofy show an indisputable charm. If you have no patience for shock factor, repetition, or the absurd, then this won’t be your cup of tea. But, if you’re like me, with a penchant for the profane and ridiculous, you’ll find the balls to the walls approach to theatremaking hard to resist.
Maggot plays at The Basement until 11 Nov.