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Review of Lippy by Rachel Causer – Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2018

The female comedian is still a relative rarity, for a variety of reasons that would take some time to discuss in full. The one thing one shouldn’t do, apparently, is to ask a comedienne why there are so few women stand-ups: they are asked the question so often it is irritating (though, being comediennes, they will be spirited in response rather than grumpy). Lippy isn’t focused on why stand-up comedy continues to be male-dominated but seeks to celebrate those who have blazed a trail. Excerpts from comediennes past and present provide a compelling juxtaposition when combined with poignant and reflective thoughts about where Rachel Causer (either playing herself or a character with the same name: creative licence is in play, y’see) is at 25 years old, and where she would like to go in the future.

Some of the stand-up comedy artists featured are still very much with us, such as Amy Schumer and Sarah Millican; others are much missed and fondly remembered, such as Victoria Wood and Joan Rivers. On second thoughts, Rivers’ uniquely acerbic style may not have endeared her to everyone who saw her perform – I certainly didn’t always agree with her viewpoints, but nonetheless, her outspokenness proved to be something for younger women to look up to, including, it would seem, Rachel.

The stand-up routines are, fortunately, or unfortunately, more memorable than the stop-and-think scenes. This is not necessarily because the comedy acts live more interesting lives, but that their observations on life are told in such a lively manner. It is no wonder Causer quotes from them so extensively – there’s no pretence here. All the comedy material is attributed to its respective sources, and while there would have been considerable skill involved in voicing various people in the course of a performance, there’s something to be said about lip synching and the precise timing involved to make it convincing.

As the various strands of comedy are linked by a narrative taking the form of a journey of self-discovery (or, at least, self-reflection), the whole ends up being greater than the sum of its parts. If there appears to be a slight overdependence on the words of other people (Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire saying, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” comes to mind), this only serves to underline the feeling of insecurity that comes along with what amounts to a quarter-life crisis.

The use of boxes on stage is one that has been used before in drama. Here, there has been no attempt to categorise things like ‘work’ and ‘social life’ into containers – rather, the proverbial lid is closed on each calendar year as it passes, containing (so to speak) phrases or statements that Causer picked up along the way. Certain putdowns from her teenage years seemed to me to be school playground ‘insults’ being spouted from infantile mouths, that really should be laughed away.

What Lippy seeks to demonstrate is that the snubs and affronts that the adult Rachel receives can be laughed at and laughed about as well. In some ways, it’s an intriguing and rather deep perspective, and certainly a viable alternative to the considerable anger and vexation that so permeates modern society. Brilliantly performed, this is an enthusiastic and enjoyable production, with humour of the highest order.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Rachel has been in awe of funny women her whole life, and now, a quarter of a century in and feeling daunted by the ‘Beach-Body ready’ and ‘BIC pens for Her’ culture she needs to channel these strong women more than ever. Join Rachel as she revisits defining moments from her teens and twenties in Lippy, an innovative, semi-autobiographical lip-sync show exploring gender and authenticity.

A technique rarely performed in this way, Rachel has drawn together witty speeches from female voices who’ve shaped her 25 years on earth. From Amy Schumer to Victoria Wood, Rachel calls upon her heroines to guide her through moments of doubt females face in a world of page3, pussy-grabbing and, erm, poo-pouri. Lippy is about the power of words, and how women choose to use them.

Word Of Mouth Theatre presents
Lippy
Written and performed by Rachel Causer
Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2018, Fragility Takeover
The Arches at St Mary’s Church, High Street, Putney, SW15 1SN
4, 6, 12 May 2018
https://www.wandsworthfringe.com/

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