Idly poking through the inbox of my Webcowgirl Twitter account, I found this strange message from @domesticbits: “Wonder if you fancy a bit of domesticity?” Well, yes, of course I do, as the “counter culture housewife of the nineties” (per A.J. Epstein): but the link attached was for a show of some sort at the Battersea Arts Center. “Mrs Lotta Quizeen uses the rituals, responsibilities and realities of domesticity (traditionally dismissed as women’s work) to entertain, educate and amuse you.” Hmm! It sounded like an ironic/comedic/poking fun kind of thing – with a feminist slant I thought would appeal to my weekend houseguest (and me). I admit, I wasn’t sure who “Fanny Craddock” was, but I figured what with my exposure to Julia Child and Martha Stewart I could probably bridge the cultural gap.
As it turns out, this show was far more confusing for an American than I expected: the constant jokes about her missing husband Johnnie sailed right over my head, and I’m still puzzled about the tiny moments of spotlit song (“I love being a housewife and keeping things tidy” seemed to be the theme). But rather than try to slot it into my cultural references, I just enjoyed what was going on, and found myself having rather a lot of laughs during a a 50 minute show that was packed as tightly as a nun’s (lunch) box. (This bad joke would not have been out of place.)
A lot of what happened was participatory, starting from when we were greeted as we entered (wearing name tags: I was “Vixen” as I was still pretty excited about the previous night’s trip to see Saucy Jack), then served sweeties at our neatly dressed tables by our charming (and bodacious) hostess. She talked a bit about her view of being a good homemaker, with interesting asides into Britishness, Europe, and rather more than the occasional double entendre. As the event continued, we were roped into a series of housework related, audience-staffed competitions that became more and more hilarious as, to be blunt, they lost their hold on double entendre and became just rude. I couldn’t restrain myself from getting in on the action and dipping my finger into the creamy topping of a banana pudding: “It’s clear why you’re married!” Mrs Quizeen announced. We were all losing it by the end: young gay men, elderly couples, middle-aged theater goers, and burnt out bohemians alike. I have to imagine that in the bustle of the Edinburgh fringe festival this will be a popular show, as it’s such a change from passively watching plays or plain old sketch comedy. Lotta Quizeen has a unique thing going and, well, I’ll never be able to fold a napkin without giggling again.
(This review is for an Edinburgh preview performance that took place at the Battersea Arts Center on Saturday, August 3, 2013. Lotta Quizeen’s Domestic Bits will be remounted at the Surgeon’s Hall in Edinburgh from August 12th to August 17th.)