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Review: Shotgun’s ‘Show Me What You’re Maid Of’

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Exeter chapter.

Very last minute on a random Thursday evening in June, I found myself sitting in the audience to see Shotgun’s performance of ‘Show Me What You’re Maid Of.’ I was promised laughter, soaring musical numbers and anecdotes to leave you gasping. I am pleased to report I was not let down.

There are few experiences that can capture the group dynamics that emerge as a result of bridal parties – not only the awkward merging of friend groups, but essentially one token person for each milestone in your life thrown into planning, events and celebration together. This was made exceptionally clear before the musical technically began, and without reliance on dialogue to tell the audience how different and unaccustomed to one another they are. While waiting for everyone to arrive, finish shuffling to their seats and settle in, the cast were busy taking turns having disjointed interactions on stage. Some emerged to pour a drink, leaving with said drink, allowing us to pre-emptively get to know their character based on their actions and expressions. This created points of tension between characters – though they may not always know who was to blame – such as one carelessly tossing couch pillows about, leaving the next character to come and fix them. This gave the audience the impression of partaking in an “inside joke” with the actors depending on which cause and effect moments were noticed.

It is no easy feat to instil high expectations before any dialogue, but it is also difficult to maintain that standard. And yet, I would say they absolutely did. Flora’s (the beautiful bride – props to the costuming!) fear of cold feet appeared rather as a fear of losing her identity to her marriage. This was captured beautifully and highlighted by the bridesmaids surrounding her. These bridesmaids were the ones who helped shape her over the years until this moment: childhood, university and work friends, and her soon-to-be sister-in-law. I liked that we were never granted the opportunity to ‘meet’ her fiancé. In the case of this snapshot story, it does not matter. This is about Flora, and who she is going to become.

Happy Fun Laughing Girls
Cassie Howard / Her Campus

In the meantime, however, we learnt about her friends. More particularly, their embarrassing sex lives. While it may be a questionable decision on behalf of the Maid of Honour to bring the group together by encouraging the sharing of embarrassing sex stories, it turned out successfully – even for the prudish sister-in-law. Her character’s prudishness was particularly comical and well done, and her eventual compliance to group activities is what allows the development of ‘Show Me What You’re Maid Of’ to feel like a success (almost even more than Flora’s developed confidence to go down the aisle – reinforcing the feminine bonding storyline).

You may ask, ‘What is a musical about a wedding day without some love stories as well?’ While we get to know a bit about Flora’s relationship through the insistent support of her friends of what a good pair they make, we also discover two unrequited love stories over the course of the day. Rather, one perceived unrequited but actually requited love between two bridesmaids, and another hidden but truly unrequited love from the narrator and childhood best friend of Flora to the bride herself. Yet, this is not pursued to create a last-minute, stolen love, “I object” moment. While this may have been partially due to the time constraint of the musical (50mins), I believe this shows a healthier representation of friendship than previously conceived romantic notions of the underdog, “should have been” love interest that waits until the last moment (or rather, too late already) until it is unfair to the bride, and puts their desires above being a supportive friend. The character remains kind and sympathetic to the audience, especially due to his attempts to remain upbeat and keep the wedding in order on behalf of the groom, and we are pulled in by his optimism for the day and admiration for Flora. In contrast, the two bridesmaids remain similarly unresolved. Their lovely duet (showcasing their individual vocal talents in conjunction), the audience is left with the hope they may yet fix their shy miscommunication, perhaps with the aid of drinks following the ceremony.

Each actor displayed a great skill for their role and impressed me with their vocal talents alongside the great live performance of the band. Despite their limited time to connect to the audience, I was truly laughing, sombre and impressed in turns throughout the musical. Revisiting moments through Flora’s life in relation to her different bridesmaids left me just as nostalgic as she was. Flora successfully managed to balance her anxiety of what marriage might bring her – addressing common concerns such as housewife expectations and whether she will sink to meet them – without it being entirely about the man she is about to marry. If it was rather “do I love him or not?” the audience could have no personal input or contemplation. By asking, “Will I just be a wife? What happens when I lose the name I’ve always had? Am I just half of a pair?”, it not only inserts the contrast of what marriage can mean to different genders but also what might be sacrificed. It also demonstrates how complicated it is to bring up questions about yourself concerning marriage without it becoming about the other person regardless – as shown by her soon sister-in-law’s offence on behalf of her brother. I liked how this was addressed through small snippets of what might await her – starting from the possibility of a life always one step behind her husband to tidy away his discarded shoes to moments of unity once she realises that need not be the case, and she begins to visualise them as a team raising children and growing old together.

Show Me What You’re Maid Of was deservingly met with a standing ovation, and a clap-along from the audience for its catchy songs. It offers light-hearted comedy while still managing to enmesh deeper nostalgia, an exploration of female identity and friendships while using the stigma of (women’s) sex lives to its benefit. It was worth the last-minute organisation to attend, and I would happily watch it again.

An English student in her final year in Exeter taking the chance to write something other than an academic essay.