Omnibus Theatre, London – until 24 March 2019
Guest reviewer: Lola Claire
Confronting the schism in feminism between the east and west is a particularly daunting subject for many British artists – and with good reason. The complex historical and cultural backgrounds make creating poignant and sensitive entertainment challenging to say the least.
Luckily, Sarah Chew – writer and director of Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran – confronts this challenge with humour, grace and heart. Orla (played by Siobhan O’Kelly) a Northern Irish theatre director takes a position at an arts festival in Tehran. It is Orla’s honesty in her lack of Iranian political and cultural knowledge that allows for a non-patronising nor accusatory approach to the host country.
Orla’s phrase “an experience you ought to have as a feminist artist” grows with irony as the piece goes on and she discovers more and more about the human condition. Not to forget troubles and promises at home, we follow Mark (played by Nathan Kiley), a stunning and charismatic drag queen, working towards the opening of his and Orla’s queer drag bar in Soho. Splendidly, we are reminded of the limits of feminism and liberation on our own doorstep. Mark and Orla use the catwalk set and share with us the many fairy tales we chose to believe in – in both countries.
O’Kelly and Kiley work marvellously together, providing a energetic and balanced duo of solemn discovery and playfulness. Kiley brilliantly brings in elements of cabaret with song, dance and costume. The duo creates secondary characters with nearby props, smoothly flowing in and out of each other’s stories. While newsworthy political events are presented, comedy abounds as well. A favourite moment of mine was the cheeky Mark as an air hostess presenting the vague and useless safety briefing to an utterly perplexed Orla.
While Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran has a slow start and could use time to glue together more firmly, the piece as a whole is wonderfully provocative while avoiding stereotypes.
Photo credit: Flavia Fraser-Cannon
My verdict? I recommend this show to anyone with an interest in identity and choice. Or just being human.
Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran runs at Omnibus Theatre until 24 March 2019, as part of 96 Festival. Tickets are available online or from the box office.
Tags: A Fairy Tale of Iran, Lipstick, Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran, London, Nathan Kiley, Off West End, review, Sarah Chew, Siobhan O’Kelly, theatreCategories: all posts, Guest review, Lola Claire, review, theatre
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