Tamara Gazzard, Lucy Shepherd and Sarah Coffee in SPENT
Tamara Gazzard, Lucy Shepherd and Sarah Coffee in Paper Cut Collective Theatre’s SPENT

Back in the 1950’s The Store Building at Newcastle West was one of the places to shop. Women dressed themselves in hats, gloves and coats for a special day out and shopping was an occasion, an activity for which one prepared.

Those glamour days are well and truly gone and now The Store building is barely occupied and has only been used intermittently for weekend markets. However, Paper Cut Collective has discovered a great open space there to present their self- devised work, SPENT.

The three performers/devisers responsible for creating this one hour piece of engaging and entertaining theatre were inspired by discarded shopping dockets and our entry into the space had us all holding a shopping docket with a highlighted item. Mine was Smoothie Cubes in Tropical flavour. These highlighted items became significant later as the audience became part of the supermarket “Planagram’s” strategic placement of products in the supermarket in a fun and informative game called Shopper Bingo. I’m glad I wasn’t Home Brand chick peas or Holiday cigarettes.

Having negotiated the clanking, old cavernous elevator up to the 2nd Floor, we were escorted down a winding corridor of cardboard boxes to a corner of the open space where moving projections of drawings of supermarket shelves, designed by animator Alex Ball, established the clinical excess of supermarket shelves. This was supported by an excellent original soundscape/score by composer Huw Jones and atmospheric lighting design by Lyndon Buckley.

Delightfully, the 3 ladies, Sarah Coffee, Tamara Gazzard and Lucy Shepherd are physically very adept and much of the joy and humour in watching this show was in their choreography and physical interaction. They are also quite similar in height and physique and they reinforced this homogeny with hairstyle and clothing that was a passing swipe at 1950’s glamour in a contemporary context.

The individual rituals of shopping and techniques of persuasion to buy were explored in a series of circulating vignettes that intertwined and repeated with variations and extensions. There was a montage, abstract vibe to this work with the stories and characters clearly emerging through the repetition and variations.

It was beautifully and cleverly choreographed and the final dance sequence with the shopping trolley was skilful and funny. It could be the inspiration for a whole new Olympic Event – synchronised shopping trolleys.

Sometimes people create new theatre that is so original, clever and unusual that there is real joy in having been able to view the work. SPENT was one of those unique experiences. It somehow managed to draw on the old fashioned glamour of shopping while combining with the rapid supermarket rush that is endemic in contemporary society. It was 60 minutes well spent.

Paper Cut Collective’s production of SPENT is playing at Level 1, The Store, Newcastle West, until this Saturday. Tickets are available at http://www.stickytickets.com.au