David Benedict on theatre

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The Independent Culture
"A couple of years ago I met this woman in her forties who told me that she was doing a law degree. I told her that was rather interesting and she turned round and said 'I don't want to be interesting, I want to be sexy'."

The line proved to be one of the springboards for Tamsin Oglesby's first play, Two Lips Indifferent Red. She is at pains to point out that it was just one of the starting points. "I was interested in writing about beauty. There is a puritan in us who likes to pretend it doesn't affect us, but it does. And particularly women."

The pleasures and perils of breast implants, tummy tucks, lifts and liposuction are live issues and the fashion industry continues to fascinate, but although both are central to the play, the ideas underpinning them are what really interest her.

"It deals with cosmetic surgery, but that's because it's the pinnacle of the subject. It epitomises the grotesqueness. Younger and older women can have a unity in feminist terms but it can be so easily shattered by youth, beauty and age. There's a gap. If you're young, you can say that beauty is irrelevant. For older women, that's not so easy."

Oglesby (above right) has worked at the National and the Royal Court, but as a director. She has long-argued that writers shouldn't direct their own work, so Vicki Featherstone is at the helm. She laughs: "It's Vicki's first experience of working with a living writer so it has been a good exchange. It has been bliss not to have the additional production pressure. Vicki has a refreshing angle on it that I wouldn't have got close to in the three-and-a-half weeks rehearsal time. She has found things that I wouldn't see. I'm too close. If I were directing, every question an actor asked, I'd go, 'That must be wrong, I'll change it'. There wouldn't be any script left. It's good to have someone defend the text more strongly than I would."

'Two Lips Indifferent Red' at The Bush, London W12 (0181-743 3388) from 6 Sept