Two Lips Indifferent Red / Bush Theatre, London

It's theoretically possible that one day I will see a politically unpredictable fringe play - a colonialist comedy, a two-hander in praise of patriarchy, a polemical monologue indicting the homeless for bringing their plight on themselves; but the emphasis here is firmly on the "theoretically". To know that Tamsin Oglesby's Two Lips Indifferent Red is about the beauty industry and cosmetic surgery is also to know, in effect, what its attitude is going to be, and to know that, whatever theatrical surprises the evening may have in store, you aren't going to come out of the Bush marvelling at the service to society performed by those wonderful cosmetic surgeons, tidying up all the ugly, flabby people who would otherwise be such an eyesore on our streets.

The obviousness of Oglesby's point wouldn't matter if her treatment of it weren't also obvious. The plot revolves around the relationship between Jo, a successful catwalk model (played by former model Saffron Burrows, above), and her mother Angela (Fiona Mollison), a mature student. Both feel trapped by Jo's good looks - Jo has a strong line in philosophy and would rather be a photographer; Angela finds in her daughter a constant reminder of her own age and fading charms.

This relationship is established with some plausibly tense, back-stabbing dialogue. But the situation's moral potential is wrecked by the presence of Andrew, Jo's father and Angela's husband, a cosmetic surgeon with an endearing line in grim pre-op humour (he heads off to a liposuction with a merry cry of "All hands to the pump") and no other redeeming qualities - having already messed up a nose-job for Jo, destroying her sense of smell, he's now boosting Angela's confidence by offering her a turn on the operating table as a birthday present. It may be the case that all cosmetic surgeons are insensitive monsters on this scale; but you feel that we're dealing in the realm of theoretical probabilities here. The effect is to weaken Oglesby's case - the unintended implication seems to be, not that cosmetic surgery has bad effects but that clumsily offered cosmetic surgery has bad effects; we need more persuasive salesmen on the case.

There are some incidental pleasures in Vicky Featherstone's production - solid central performances by Burrows and Mollison, and strong support from Rebecca Blake and Sarah Coomes, doubling as a pair of brainless catwalk models and a pair of brainless beauticians (you feel Oglesby doesn't have a great deal of respect for women who go into the beauty industry). The beauticians in particular get some jolly one-liners - arguing over whether Madonna is a pornographer or not ("I just wouldn't want to be the cause of anyone getting an erection unless I was there with them in the same room to do something about it"). But these are really caricatures; it's ironic that while Oglesby has set out to write a play about the evils of a society that judges people by their looks, her characterisations only go skin-deep.

n To 7 Oct. Booking: 0181-743 3388

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test