I go to a lot of theatre but rarely do I see a scenario on stage that I can relate to; there are the odd exceptions Nine Night about Jamaican family in mourning for example but never has a show spoke to me as much as Patrycja Dynowska‘s Sh!t Happens, a multi-disciplinary work on her bowel disorder that looks at the taboo of shit and shitting yourself in public.
On the surface, and perhaps why I found this quite moving, Dynowska is a healthy woman; raven haired, rosy cheeked with an of Juliette Binoche about her was presenting her crippling and humiliating disability alongside growing up with body dysmorphia and incidences of bulimia. She spent her youth longing for illness to mend her difficult relationship with her parents and now she has what she wished for…
Dynowska talks us through her relationships with drugs, her resilience to a condition that can cause weight gain, weight loss, pain and many trips to the toilet, set in a bathroom where she spends much of her time. Throughout the second half of the show Dynowska disappeared at times and I am still not sure if this was a creative decision or her health condition. Never have I been so on the edge of my seat whether a performer will come back.
There was a scene that moved me. When she is talking about incidences of incontinence and she is washing white underwear as she talks about being refused access to toilets in France, shitting in a Tesco bag and other stories of humiliation because her bowel is attacking itself. The smell of the soap and my own personal issues with heavy periods reminded me how the abnormal can become normal. The life limiting impact got to me in a way a production rarely does. She discusses how she before she got her Jerry (a portable toilet, which provides props for tonight) she couldn’t go camping or had to scout restaurants and other areas for access to toilets. It all just seemed so exhausting, without the fact her bowel is zapping away any energy she may have.
Dynowska has such a cheery demeanour and is so likeable. Giving away a tube map with toilets because she has memorised them all. Her approach to her illness is mature and dare I say it “raising awareness”; I will certainly consider bowel disease if a public toilet smells unpleasant. It is a sensory, interesting and bold approach to unseen disability.
Sh!t Happens is on until 18 August at Camden People’s Theatre https://cam.tickets.red61.com/performances.php?eventId=3113:5010