ON THE face of it, DollyWould is a loving tribute to Dolly Parton.

But it’s also about immortality, death and cloning. It also features wigs made of sheep’s wool and giant breast costumes. All will be explained.

For close friends and stage-mates Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole, it is also a show that helped them to rebuild bridges after a drastic falling out.

While the performers had been contemplating the aforementioned themes for a long while, it was a visit to the surreal theme park Dollywood in Tennessee that really kicked off the writing process for DollyWould.

It also healed some wounds.

“The trip was the first time we’d gone away together after the fight,” says Rebecca. “We were trying to heal our friendship and the show. Our lives have been intertwined for so long – living together, working together, having the same hobbies and friends.” Rebecca moved out of the London flat the two women shared after the spat.

The duo never really stopped writing though. DollyWould comes hot on the heels of their last production, Letters To Windsor House, a hit at last year’s Brighton Fringe. As with a lot of their previous work, that show, about the housing crisis, was politically-charged and came from a “place of anger”.

This time round, the mentality is different. Perhaps because of the salvaged friendship, as well as the state of the world, Rebecca and Louise opted for a more optimistic approach. “Everything at the time felt pretty bad, with Brexit and Trump, and it was like ‘how can it get worse than this?’” says Rebecca. “Maybe it’s time to do something from a place of love.”

DollyWould is still political with a small “p”, she adds, because it deals with weighty topics while managing at the same time to be playful and chaotic. The Dolly Parton theme park – designed by the legendary singer herself – was part of the duo’s investigation into how people attempt to preserve themselves after death.

“It was completely different from what we expected,” says Rebecca of Dollywood. “We thought there would be loads of rollercoasters and everything would be pink, but actually it was very olde-worldy and beautiful, right in the middle of the smoky mountains.

“There’s a full recreation of Dolly’s childhood home, rebuilt out of plastic, and she’s also made plastic replicas of the graveyards her family are buried in.”

The theme park encapsulated what the friends love about the singer – that she is “incredibly authentic as well as being plastic in some ways”.

Rebecca adds: “She’s a complete contradiction. She has this peroxide, family-friendly persona but she’s also an incredibly prolific songwriter who has never wavered in who she is.”

The focus on Dolly Parton forms part of a wider exploration in DollyWould; how the mass-produced image can supersede reality. Rebecca tells a story that acts as a great example of this. “Dolly Parton entered herself into a Dolly Parton drag queen lookalike competition, and lost.”

DollyWould is told in three parts, each based on a real journey Rebecca and Louise embarked on. As well as the Dollywood trip, they also visited a “body farm” just ten minutes down the road in Tennessee. Well, visit might be the wrong word. “We tried to break in,” says Rebecca. “It’s a place where you donate your body to forensic anthropology,” she adds. “They leave all these bodies out in the field to rot.”

They also went to see Dolly the sheep, named after Ms Parton, who gained global fame for being the first mammal to be cloned. While these elements may seem unrelated, they all have something to do with the attempt towards immortality. “We hope there is an ‘ah’ moment when the audience get why we’re going on these strange paths,” says Rebecca. “There are certain crossovers, like the wigs we wear being made out of sheep’s wool. We also wear big breasts that look a bit like udders.”

It’s fair to say you won’t see many shows that tackle these deep existential themes with as much zest as DollyWould. Just don’t expect a Dolly Parton tribute act.

l DollyWould runs at The Old Market from May 22 to 25 at 7.30pm