Lippy, Traverse Theatre, review: 'Dense, difficult, chewy stuff'
Edinburgh Festival 2014: Provides plenty to get your teeth into
Dead Centre’s play was a hit at Dublin's Fringe; written and directed by Ben Moukarzel with Ben Kidd also on directorial duties, it’s dense, difficult, chewy stuff.
We’re welcomed to a post-show discussion, where a chummy yet chippy Moukarzel interviews an older actor (Dan Reardon), who is also a lip-reader. His experiences as the latter - including helping the police decipher CCTV footage in a case where four women committed suicide - were the inspiration for the play we’ve just, um, not watched. They discuss lip-reading in movies, clips projected on screen (from Casino, 2001: A Space Odyssey) and the actor demonstrates his lip-reading skills - or lack thereof. This dark art, always part guesswork, is a dangerous one; “a man can be convicted because of what his lips say” he points out.
Behind the screen, next, we see that police case - three nieces and their aunt - who sealed themselves in their flat and starved themselves to death, after shredding all their documents into many bin bags. Some of these float, like balloons. It is powerfully creepy.
There’s a treacly, dreamy heaviness as they prepare for death; empty plates are smashed, they speak of a “higher calling”, masculine devil voices boom from their mouths. A Catholic atmosphere of penance pervades; there’s a disgust at the bodily, solitary nature of death. The actors are all impressively lazer-focused, even if the piece has become painfully leaden. The lip-reader is there too - trying to make sense of it all? Or putting words into their mouths? At one point a woman accusingly says, “it didn’t happen like this.”
The final portion is a close-up film of an old woman’s mouth, as she muses on death and remembers her life - and a particular childhood trauma. It’s Beckettian as hell, but compelling nonetheless.
What to make of it all? Lippy offers no obvious conclusions. It’s bold in its dramatic textures, but it’s hard work and hard to love. The tantalisation of the first portion - which really does hook you in - needn’t be neatly solved, but its synapse-firing brightness does feel almost wasted on a second half slog. Lippy will be many people’s idea of theatrical purgatory, but if you enjoy chasing down meanings within a play that is deeply concerned with what we might, or might not, be saying, it provides plenty to get your teeth into.
To 24 Aug; traverse.co.uk
Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 Watch: Man takes selfie every mile of 2,600 mile hike, creates amazing timelapse video
- 4 The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Jeremy Clarkson to host BBC's Have I Got News For You despite Top Gear exit
Kay Burley 'bias' against Ed Miliband prompts 130 complaints to Ofcom
A historian gave the most British look of despair when someone screwed up Richard III's birthday at his reburial
Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
James May hints Top Gear days are over following Jeremy Clarkson's BBC exit
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew