Guinea Pigs On Trial

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): Guinea Pigs On Trial at Summerhall (Venue 26). Review by David Pollock


How to take a serious subject, make entertaining light of it and offer an information service at the same time? Come to SH!T Theatre, returning to Edinburgh after the critical success of last year’s Job Seekers Anonymous, their show about benefit culture.

This piece is a direct follow-on: the duo of Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit having considered selling their bodies for medical experimentation in return for a bit of cash last time. Now their need for money – and for Arts Council match funding – is even greater, and so they’ve apparently spent the best part of last year applying to be guinea pigs in lab experiments.

It’s been getting them more or less nowhere, but they’ve learned a lot. For example, that it’s much harder to become a guinea pig than just asking to be one, particularly if you’re a woman. There’s a mighty screed of lifestyle questioning to get through first, and for females it helps if you’re either beyond child-bearing age or medically sterile. Mothersole and Biscuit aren’t, and they struggle to earn those plum four-figure gigs, giving a certain experiential lie to the idea that testing is an easy option for those in poverty.

Yet their research – and their discussions with ever-knowledgeable writer on the subject Ben Goldacre – lead them into the downside of trials, including lack of accountability or need to report findings.

It’s a quirky and effervescent piece, and there’s something of the student-targeted comedy revue to their mix of joke songs and high-concept sketches, not least when an audience member is apparently induced to give a urine sample onstage. Yet the show will also appeal to many others for its sense of righteous social and political concern, with the duo’s even-handed discovery being that medical research on humans is both essential for the advancement of our knowledge and all too easily corrupted on both sides by the inducement of money.

Until 23 August. Today 3:30pm, more info.

Originally published in The Scotsman

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