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Peak Stuff - Thought-provoking show calls for pause on shopping spree culture

Peak Stuff. Photo courtesy of The Belgrade Theatre.

Peak Stuff by Billie Collins, B2 Stage, Belgrade Theatre from 21 – 22 March 2024.

Review by Annette Kinsella.


A few years ago, there was an unexpected hit TV show called The Hoarder Next Door. Focussing on the psychological condition of hoarding disorder - where people collect so many things that the clutter becomes unmanageable - thousands of viewers watched in fascination as the camera showed sufferers clambering over teetering piles of binbags, mountains of books, defunct video cassettes and other detritus of modern society just to enter their homes.


What many people don't realise is that by standards of people only 20 years ago, we're ALL hoarders. The rise of internet shopping, fast fashion and cheap-as-chips sales sites from overseas means it is all too easy for us to collect far more possessions than our ancestors ever dreamed of owning. One shocking statistic claimed that for every bag of discarded clothes, a further 70 bags of materials were expended in their manufacture. We're literally suffocating in....stuff. Stuffocating, if you will.

Meg Lewis with Matthew Churcher on drums. Photo courtesy of The Belgrade Theatre.


It is this modern phenomenon that is the inspiration for the new two-person show, Peak Stuff by writer Billie Collins, currently at the Belgrade Theatre.


The multi-talented Meg Lewis adeptly takes the part of the three characters. Alice is  a truculent teenager, intent on breaking the system by dismantling the towering piles of stuff on sale around her, while Charlie, confined to a shared house boxroom, attempts to beat the system by becoming a human commodification, selling her organs on Etsy. Finally and most tragically is Ben, who insulates himself against the pain of his mother’s terminal cancer with a fortress of vintage Galliano, Puma trainers and fitness equipment.


Multi talented Meg Lewis. Photo courtesy of The Belgrade Theatre.

Lewis’ ability to physically transform themself into these personas is impressive – as six-footer Ben they towers over the audience despite their diminutive stature, while the exertions of Alice dragging a hefty carcass to a protest at the town hall is almost palpable. Meanwhile musician Matthew Churcher keeps a pacy atmosphere with his drum solos and samples, punctuating the action with beats and real-life excerpts of shopper vox pops.

Meg plays the roles of three characters. Photo courtesy of The Belgrade Theatre.


If there was one criticism of this production, it would be it was a smidge too long – it could probably have withstood the trimming of 15 minutes’ fat. That said, at no point does the action drag – the innovative combination of lighting, music and dramatic monologue is well able to hold the interest of the audience, even when the dialogue could stand to be more succinct.


Overall this was a stimulating and thought provoking piece, which will certainly make me think twice before reaching for my credit card.


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