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4 April 2018updated 30 Jul 2021 10:13am

DollyWould is a show about Dolly Parton – via clones, tattoos, drag queens and death

Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit, aka double act Sh!t Theatre, smuggle in hidden depths to their silly, morbid, and wonderful show.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit love Dolly Parton. They really love her. They know everything about her. For instance, did you know Dolly Parton modelled her make up look on “the town tramp”? Did you know Dolly Parton is covered in secret tattoos? And did you know Dolly Parton once entered a Dolly Parton drag queen lookalike contest – and lost?

DollyWould, the latest show from their double act Sh!t Theatre, sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer – this week, they have a run of shows at London’s Soho Theatre. It is in some ways a homage to Dolly. It sees Mothersole and Biscuit retell the story of their pilgrimage to her theme park, Dollywood, in Knoxville, Tennessee. We watch real video footage of them both getting Dolly’s face tattooed on their legs. We hear of how the two women – a real couple off-stage – broke up, but found themselves brought back together by Dolly. We hear them explain the fan theory that Dolly is a lesbian, too.

But it’s a lot more than that. DollyWould is deeply interested in Dolly Parton, yes, but it’s equally interested in her namesake Dolly the Sheep (the first mammal brought into existence by being cloned – from a mammory gland, no less), and, grimly, Knoxville’s Body Farm (where decomposing human corpses are studied). If these things sound only tangentially related, their connections seem to tell an increasingly coherent narrative.

Mothersole and Biscuit use that anecdote – about Dolly losing a competition for her own likeness, quoting her attempts to make her own “beauty mark bigger, the eyes bigger, the hair bigger, everything” – as a jumping off point for questions about gender, bodies, reproductions, the immortality of an image or brand, and the mortality of a physical human form.

As they do, their costumes change – the eyes get bigger, the hair gets bigger, everything. They wear woolly blonde wigs and holes in their tops expose their boobs. Stood upright and singing, they’re Parton cartoons; bent over and bleating, they’re sheep with swinging udders.

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As the best art often does, DollyWould slowly builds links until everything makes a kind of cosmic sense: a veil has been lifted, you can suddenly see the interconnectedness of all things. Silly, fun, but smuggling in hidden depths: could there be a better Dolly tribute?

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