Woolworths: A shaky attempt at critiquing middle-class whiteness

Juliet Jenkins 'Woolworths'. Photo by: Toby Ngomane/ Cue.

As a person of colour Woolworths was an uncomfortable show to sit through. Juliet Jenkins’ script and direction set out to confront and critique middle-class whiteness, both as a racial and a cultural idea through choral work and satire. Although, technically, it was a good show I never found myself laughing at what was happening on stage even when it was supposed to be hilarious.

This was not a bad piece of theatre. The cast of seven showed a great deal of control, they handled the piece well and they held the audience’s attention from the beginning.

Juliet Jenkins ‘Woolworths’. Photo by: Toby Ngomane/ Cue.

The choral work was well executed, with only one or two instances of falling out. However, with regards to choral work the piece was somewhat let down when the actors performed alone. Some members dropped the energy and the whole group had to work very hard to pick it up again. For the most part they did this through choral work and in these instances the performers stopped projecting and started shouting. Quite an intolerable experience.

There was a good use of space and the stage rarely ever felt unbalanced. The script was well written and had evidently been crafted, but at times, because of the performers, the work felt like a weak attack on the senses. The work started with a high, shouting, in your face energy and never changed or evolved rhythmically and the staging of the work could have done with a bit more crafting.

Juliet Jenkins ‘Woolworths’. Photo by: Toby Ngomane/ Cue.

Jenkin’s script was a blatant jab at middle-class whiteness: however my discomfort arose from the fact that the majority white audience seemed to be laughing a little too hard for a little too long.

I spent most of the show trying to figure out if they were laughing because they agree with the critique, or because they truly find middle-class whiteness funny, a tiring process. I hope that as the piece progresses the creative team figure out what exactly they hope the audience gains from this experience and rework the satire because its obviously going over people’s heads.

By Toby Ngomane