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Review of Sexy Lamp at Clapham Omnibus

Sexy LampThe title of Katie Arnstein’s original one-woman show refers to Kelly Sue DeConnick’s ‘Sexy Lamp Test’ which determines if a female character is relevant to the plot of an artistic work or merely decoration. If the role could be replaced by an item of kitsch table-top lighting without changing the story, it has failed the Sexy Lamp Test… a sadly common occurrence in contemporary popular culture and, as the roles for ‘silent, past her prime woman (aged 29)’ and ‘mute woman, topless’ indicate, something Arnstein has faced ever since she became a professional actor.

We meet Arnstein as she sits with poise and patience, wearing a decidedly sexy lampshade that obscures her face. The image is surreal, funny and gripping. So too is the rest of the performance.

Arnstein’s performance is a blend of stand-up comedy, singing and acting. Whilst it is a one-woman-show, it’s not really a play. Although she acts out scenes with vigour and skill, she mostly entertains through story-telling and song. Her monologue is smart, funny and moving – in parts reminiscent of Spalding Gray combined with Hannah Gadsby but with more vivacity and puckishness. Katie Arnstein is very funny whilst never being snide or self-pitying. She expresses her feelings and enacts emotional moments; the show is moving. But whilst there are a few sorrowful or rage-provoking moments, the experience is not one of torment but rather of inspiration. Her singing voice is beautiful and she plays a pretty mean ukulele. This is edifying entertainment – not a lecture or a rant. As a gifted story-teller, she creates worlds and invites us in to explore and understand. As a charismatic performer, we want to go with her.

If you’ve ever struggled to articulate your experience as a woman because expressing the slow dawning of inequality or the progressively deepening nature of sexist aggression makes it hard for others to understand what you’re on about, you must go immediately to see Sexy Lamp. You will leave not only entertained but equipped with a frame of reference and a vocabulary that helps you make sense of the world and feel less alone in your thoughts. If you’re a woman and want someone to understand you and the 21st-century Western experience a bit better, drag them to Arnstein’s show in Clapham, Canary Wharf, Nottingham or at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. If you’re not a woman but like great storytelling that enriches your world view, get down to Sexy Lamp at a venue near you!

4 stars

Review by Mary Beer

So I figured if McDonald’s can call itself a restaurant, I can call myself an actor.
Ever since Katie was cast as the lead in her primary school Christmas show, Santa’s Snow Mobile, she believed there
was a place for her in show business. Since then named, speaking and fully clothed roles have been hard to come
Sexy Lamp, Winner of Show of the Week at VAULT Festival 2019, brilliantly combines comedy, original songs and
storytelling to shed a bright light on how ridiculous the industry can be and why Katie is refusing to stay in the dark. From the writer and performer of Bicycles and Fish, Winner of Show of the Week at VAULT Festival 2018.

Written by: Katie Arnstein
Director: Ellen Havard
Sound Designer: Andrew Hollingworth
Photography: Simon Jefferis
Press: Joseph Cullen
Written and Performed by Katie Arnstein

Listings Information
Sexy Lamp
Omnibus Theatre, Clapham
May 9th – 11th at 7:30pm


  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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