Friday, 27 February 2015

Theatre review: Lippy

In last year's Blurred Lines, one scene made its point in the rather meta way of dramatising a post-show discussion with the creatives. In Bush Moukarzel's Lippy, this Q&A conceit becomes the framing device for a whole show about putting words into other people's mouths. It makes for a nicely disarming start to the evening, to have Moukarzel welcome the audience "back" and begin to talk about a show they haven't actually seen and doesn't really exist. With the help of a techie (Adam Welsh, also the composer and sound desginer) who doesn't always seem to be paying much attention, he interviews an actor who is also a Lip Reader (David Heap,) a talent around which the preceding show was built. It's an ability he's also sometimes been asked to use to help police inquiries, and one case particularly haunts him - of being asked to interpret the last known CCTV footage of some women who made a suicide pact.

Three sisters and their elderly aunt (Joanna Banks, Caitríona Ní Mhurchú, Liv O’Donoghue, Eileen Walsh,) after being made to leave their lifelong home and move to an area they were unfamiliar with, locked themselves away and starved themselves to death. They also destroyed every official piece of paper relating to their lives, in an apparent attempt to wipe out any evidence they'd ever existed.

Lippy certainly splits into two very distinct parts; the opening section, in which Moukarzel's Interviewer is rather more interested in trumpeting shows he's been in himself than in finding out much about the Lip Reader, is often very funny; I particularly liked Heap's nonplussed reaction to some of the more inane questions.

The main body of the show is a much more melancholy affair, in which the Lip Reader visits the four women in their final days but fails to get any answers. Probably the most memorable part of the show will turn out to be a piece of music, in which Welsh's voice is looped singing "When you were born you cried, the world rejoiced; live your life so when you die the world cries and you rejoice." For the most part though it's the visuals (the show's directed by Moukarzel and Ben Kidd, designed by Andrew Clancy and Grace O’Hara) that are most striking. The Lip Reader's utter failure to understand these women is the point, and that sort of structure can be frustrating; and the final five minutes is a projection of a woman's lips speaking a monologue, a video that for some reason made me feel queasy so spoiled the ending for me. But Lippy is the sort of highly individual piece that can get by on moody abstraction - it's hard to pin down but I'm glad I saw it.

Lippy by Bush Moukarzel, Mark O'Halloran and Dead Centre is booking until the 14th of March at the Young Vic's Maria.

Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes straight through.

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