New Arcola show Product satirises a terrorist-romance movie

Product staring Olivia Poulett. Picture: Richard Davenport

Product staring Olivia Poulett. Picture: Richard Davenport - Credit: Richard Davenport

In her latest role at the Arcola, Olivia Poulet stars as a desperate Hollywood producer trying to sell a blockbuster like no other, discovers Alex Bellotti.

“This is for the towers, this is for civilisation, this is for all of us you bastard,” cries Olivia Poulet, before adding: “His sperm is dribbling down your leg – that’s a private note, we won’t shoot it.”

So pitches the protagonist in Product, the Arcola Theatre’s madcap new satire of Hollywood. The play follows the monologue of a down-and-out film producer as she desperately tries to persuade a precocious actress to star in a new film – a shoddy, offensive and cringe-worthy script about a woman who unwittingly falls in love with a terrorist.

Written in 2005 by the irrepressible Mark Ravenhill (Shopping and F**king, Mother Clap’s Molly House), Poulet originally performed the play last year at the Edinburgh Fringe, and is looking forward to giving it a longer London outing.

“It’s a really punchy bit of work and it’s very funny,” she says. “When it goes with a crack and the audience get it, it’s an amazing sort of rollercoaster; people are absolutely intrigued.”

Clocking in at just 55 minutes, Product is a short but jam-packed ride. Considering it is the first solo show Poulet has tried however, she’s appreciative of the length – especially considering the increasingly intense emotional stakes she has to portray on stage.

“I play it as though it’s pretty desperate and if this girl doesn’t come onboard, this thing is pretty much dead in the water and so is my career too.

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“I think that’s what makes it such a funny piece. I have to believe that it’s possible she could come on board and I have to really sell it as though I’m pitching Hamlet rather than this horrible, seedy project and that’s probably where some of the comedy comes from.”

Currently based in south west London, Poulet is a familiar face in both theatre and television.

One of her most prominent roles, as a Tory spin Doctor in the BBC’s political satire The Thick Of It, could hardly be more fitting as the general election comes to a head.

For Poulet, the show’s most unnerving trait was how realistically it mirrored real life Westminster gaffes, such as David Cameron forgetting which football team he supported.

“It was so extraordinary being involved in it because so often we’d be doing a scene or they’d have written something that pretty much was reflected the next day in politics. It was extraordinary how terrifyingly on the nose they were with the writing.”

While recent tales of Jihadi brides have grabbed headlines however, she thankfully doesn’t think the script in Product is quite as ready to become reality.

“I think it would be highly unlikely still, thank God, but I think that’s why it’s such a brilliant play as it is a completely ludicrous pitch for an absolute horrifying, disgusting and disgraceful film.”

Product runs at Hackney’s Arcola Theatre until May 23. Visit

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