The Oppression Olympics Theatre Review

The Oppression Olympics Theatre Review

StraightUp Productions

By: Will Dalrymple, Mark Bittlestone and Will Penswick


The Oppression Olympics is a timely, insightful story about people who go to extreme lengths, such as breaking into someone’s house or harming members of their own family, to prove how miserable they are. The title may sound like a Youtube yarn about ‘special snowflakes’ and SJWS, but whilst the term is linked to identity politics the play itself is about human behaviour in general and how, to some extent, we all want people to feel sorry for us and, more disturbingly, we can become jealous of people who have it worse than us because they have it worse than us.

This is a very funny play (highlights include clown sex, terrible disguises and the ultimate awkward bus stop encounter), but it also touches on real issues like suicide,  loneliness and desperation. The writers convey an understanding of how awkward people can be when faced with tragedy and how annoying this can be for the person who has suffered said tragedy.

The Oppression Olympics pokes fun at Milo, Alex and Hayley’s selfishness and lack of social awareness, but it also creates sympathy for them.  Being a single mother, a 25-year-old virgin or coming to terms with your sexuality can be tough, and some of their insane behaviour stems from real desperation. The characters are not just bored people who want to be miserable in order to make themselves more interesting, they are miserable people who need to find a reason for said misery, a reason for people to acknowledge that they’re not okay.

Some have criticised The Oppression Olympics for taking on too many issues at once, but that fails to acknowledge that everyone has issues. This isn’t a melodramatic play full of unbelievable traumas, it gives the audience an insight into fairly banal but still real problems that anybody, someone you see on the street or on the bus or in a shop, could be dealing with.

The Oppression Olympics played at the Bread and Roses theatre, an intimate fringe theatre located above a bar in Clapham, South London. The stage doesn’t leave much room for creativity, but the props (like the bus stop, Christmas tree and sofa) were a nice touch and made it clear when scene changes were happening and where the scenes were set. Will Stewart (Milo) got all the funniest lines, crazy costumes and most intense personal issues and he was very amusing, but Elicia Murphy (Hayley) also gave a strong performance both by making us laugh and, through relatively small voice changes and facial expressions,  successfully conveying her characters underlying tension. It’s hard to show when a character who is normally outgoing and upbeat is suffering underneath, and she pulled it off.

The title ‘The Oppression Olympics’ alludes to identity politics, but the only character who really embodies it is Alex who, despite being gay himself, is easily the most homophobic character in this play. This could fall into the trap of pandering to those who talk about how ‘desperate to be oppressed’ people are these days, but it was interesting to see that, when Alex was criticising his (bisexual) waitress of homophobia or his (male) date of internalised homophobia, it was he who was stereotyping gay men, he who appeared to have the internalised homophobia, and he who was insulting other gay people.

The twist ending was quite shocking (I heard a few people gasp in the audience) and it stuck in my mind during the tube home, but it could have used a bit more of a build-up to be more believable. It was, however, enjoyable, clever and showed a lot of promise. I look forward to seeing more from StraightUp Productions.

Author: Sophia Moss


Sophia Moss

Sophia Moss

I am a London-based freelance writer. I tend to focus on ghostwriting, travel, and culture but my real passion is journalism and ideally I would like to write about the things that matter.