Review: Rough Trade

Theatre Works, Explosives Factory
Until 29 July

Imagine a well-spoken woman of a certain age describing the sex life of slugs, before transitioning to elaborate upon a swap and trade social media platform.

That is what you get at Theatre Works’ Explosives Factory with Rough Trade, which happens to be the moniker for a quirky, private Facebook group.

Unlike Marketplace, the exchange of money is strictly forbidden and there are rules, one of which is “don’t be a dick”.

Photos by Clare Hawley

The writer and performer is Katie Pollock and she is personable, relaxed and natural throughout. No airs and graces about her. She simply paints vivid word pictures. Nothing is taboo.

Towards the end of the hour-long monologue, we learn more about the personal situation in which her character finds herself.

Through circumstances, she has been forced to downsize.

She used to earn good money, but not now.

Some weeks, after paying for rent and essentials, she only has $15 left.

She was chuffed when she picked up a job as a shelf stacker at Coles during COVID-19, but was then let go.

Pollock shares stories about the types of people and trades she has encountered.

It could be sex toys and bondage gear for lemons. A cat, a backpack and nipple pasties – all are fair game.

In character, Pollock shares with us that she has a soft spot for people who need and want things.

She recognises that objects are meaningful.

It is just her, three cardboard boxes of different sizes (which her character collects) and a little red chair, along with a water bottle.

She acknowledges that every time she sits on the chair she thinks of her daughter … and yet before this is over that, too, will go.

Throughout her dissertation, her phone is constantly pinging.

She has a number of trades on the go as she speaks.

Clearly, she is energised by the platform, the nature of which can result in gold.

She relates the tale of a guy that started out with a paper clip and managed to trade up to a house.

But, of course, it can also work in reverse.

Pollock eventually pivots back to the slugs and relates them to the scavengers on Rough Trade.

The play is nothing if not heavy on anecdotes.

The character who relays the stories is fighting invisibility, irrelevance and displacement in a patriarchal society.

Clearly, this is an intelligent woman who has experienced trauma, someone who remains resourceful.

Despite the odds being stacked against her, she retains her sense of humour.

She may just be a fictionalised version of the playwright.

Eclectic – absolutely. Well composed and directed (by Anthony Skuse) – undoubtedly.

It is a picture of a life that has had its sharp edges … and of survival in a world where social connection on digital devices can, and often is, left of centre.

I appreciated the energy and style of delivery Katie Pollock brought to bear in her walk on the wilder side.

Rough Trade is on at Theatre Works’ Explosives Factory until 29th July, 2023.

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Alex First

Alex First

Alex First believes all people have a story to tell, if only a good playwright can prize it out of them. Alex has a natural curiosity about the world and believes a strong narrative, or narrative with music, can open the door to subjects about which he knows little. Like his parents before him, theatre is his passion – a passion with emotional resonance, one that moves and excites him. He brings decades’ experience as an arts’ connoisseur to his role as a critic.
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