The Oppression Olympics

It’s an almost universal experience of public transport, sitting at the bus stop and overhearing someone else’s conversation. Happy or sad, we let ourselves – if only for a moment – into the lives and problems of others. The Oppression Olympics is a charming comedy-drama which explores whether we should meddle in these overheard issues, and whether our own independent hardships and circumstances are comparable to those of strangers.

A sympathetic production which deserves more attention than it has received.

Footlights’ Mark Bittlestone and Will Dalrymple have written this affectionate script and populated it with endearing and sympathetic characters. Hayley is stressed and lonely, Ruth is grieving, Alex is gay and looking for acceptance, and Milo is a virgin with a habit for enthusiastically quoting famous film scripts at inappropriate moments. These characters never feel false or contrived, having clearly been crafted by sympathetic hands and performed by talented and invested performers. At times the drama is a little more present than the comedy, but there are genuinely witty quips dotted throughout the play which ground and lighten the often dark subject matter.

The biggest issue with the performance was that it moved with quite a slow, sometimes lethargic pace. This arose not so much from the writing or performances, but from an undeservingly empty (and therefore quiet) audience, and some lengthy scene transitions which drained the room of energy. The performers did a remarkable job of maintaining the high standard of quality expected from a Footlights associated show considering the circumstances, and their professionalism was commendable. Hopefully, moving to an earlier start time tomorrow (4.05pm from the 21st of August) will relieve them of the problem of competing with some of the biggest names of the Fringe, and allow their audience to grow significantly.

Considering that the play grapples with difficult and complex themes such as single-parenthood, issues surrounding sexuality, and suicide, it is never miserable, self-pitying or unenjoyable. The writers have cleverly avoided the trap of becoming overly preachy and patronising, and have instead delivered a well-executed exploration of many different kinds of pain. It might not be perfect, or revolutionary, but it is a sympathetic production which deserves more attention than it has received.  

Reviews by Holly Mackinlay

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The Oppression Olympics

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The Blurb

Everyone loves the idea that their life cannot get any worse, especially the four strangers who find themselves waiting for the number 51 bus into town. What begins with harmless eavesdropping soon becomes an argument over who has had the worst life. They are prepared to share everything and concede nothing. Ruth is bereaved, Alex is gay, Milo’s a virgin and Hayley is lonely. In the eyes of these proud losers, they’ve already won, but that’s not for them to decide. The Oppression Olympics takes an irreverent look at sentimentality and self-pity.