Two Lips Indifferent Red / Bush Theatre, London
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
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