Photo credit: Nathanael Bennett
Last night I found myself going to see a solo, autobiographical show about living with chronic bowel disease. It’s the Camden Fringe, anything goes right? Plus, what do I know about something like Ulcerative Colitis? Next to nothing, I definitely feel much better educated now.
Settling in to my seat at the Camden People’s Theatre, my eyes were immediately drawn to the set. As you can see in the photo above a toilet has been recreated in all it’s white and toilet-papery glory. This is the sort of detailed and elaborate set you’d expect to see in a longer running, more permanent show. Not during a fringe festival with the need to remove the set between every performance, because other shows are sharing the space with you. Helen Hebert’s set design is brilliantly conceived and executed, enabling it to become the supporting actor in Patrycja’s Dynowska’s very personal story.
Now if you are reading this and think the whole premise of the show sounds awkward and uncomfortable, fear not, Patrycja shares her story with an engaging charm and humour. There is no anger as she shares personal examples of just how debilitating and embarrassing her invisible but ever present chronic disease is. This is a woman who has come to peace with her condition, and the implications it has on her life. She doesn’t passively accept it, but has clearly worked hard to build her life around it. Even as she acknowledges that there are things she may never be able to do, her determination to live her life as fully as possible shines through.
She has written and performed this show for two audiences. The first being her fellow sufferers, so they can feel less alone and represented. People don’t generally share their incontinence stories over a pint in the pub. Living with the constant risk of shitting yourself is humiliating, not helped by the fact that those around you just can’t understand. Which brings me to her second audience. People like me, who outside of the occasional stomach upset, can’t understand the challenges of living your life when you have to run to the toilet 20 times a day. The people who scowl at those who’ve spent too long in a public toilet. The people disgusted by the smell. Those of us who might never stop to think that the red faced person coming out of the cubicle might be living with a chronic illness.
Sh*t Happens is running at the Camden People’s Theatre until Sunday 18th August. I’d recommend checking it out. Spend an entertaining hour with Patrycja, and learn about her experience of living with this chronic condition. The show is full of humour, honesty, poetry and physical theatre. There is even a rendition of Sto Lat, something I know my Polish relatives could get behind.
Photo: Nathanael Bennett