Theatre review: DollyWould

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: It's a moot point whether Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit of Sh!t Theatre actually like Dolly Parton in the sense of being fans of her music. That is, they claim to adore her records, but the evidence of DollyWould suggests something a little different.
Superfans Mothersole and Biscuit. Picture: Field & McGlynnSuperfans Mothersole and Biscuit. Picture: Field & McGlynn
Superfans Mothersole and Biscuit. Picture: Field & McGlynn

Summerhall (Venue 26)


What they love – and they love it to giggly, fangirl excess – is the idea of Dolly, the ludicrous, larger-than-life image. They are captivated not just by the big hair and the rhinestones, but by the theme park, the merchandise and the lookalikes. It’s a fascination, half ironic, half for real, with the public image as well as with the gossipy is-she/isn’t-she rumours of her private life.

The music underpins it all, of course, but it is as much excuse as driving force. They love Dolly, the phenomenon.

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And punk post-modernists that they are, Mothersole and Biscuit are not content to look Dolly straight in the eye with anything like a conventional tribute show; their belief that DollyWould would be their mainstream crossover hit can only ever have been half-hearted.

Rather, despite splashing out their Arts Council funds on a trip to the United States in search of the icon, they continually look sideways – to the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center unit (commonly known as the Body Farm) that borders on Dollywood, and where corpses are left to rot, to the Roslin Institute where Dolly the sheep was created and named in honour of the singer’s most prominent features.

What emerges from the cross-cultural chaos is a refracted reflection on body image, mammary glands, cloning and copycats. It’s about mass-market commerciality versus private-life intimacy. If it lacks the single-minded purpose of last year’s hit Letters to Windsor House, it has an even wilder, more wayward spirit, funny, messy and unpredictable.

Until 27 August. Today 9:15pm.