Lipstick by Lily Shahmoon is at Southwark Playhouse from 4th to 28th March 2020. Two women play two teenage boys in this timely story of young hearts and the rules that surround us all. Starring Helen Aluko (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and April Hughes (The Play that Goes Wrong, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).
‘Sorry I don’t fit into your preconceived notions of me.‘
Tommy is scared of everything. Especially the kids at school who would call him gay if they saw him putting on lipstick. Jordan isn’t scared of anything. He’s not scared that he likes the way Tommy looks in lipstick. Really, he’s not.
Q&A with April Hughes
Q: What were your first thoughts when being cast in Lipstick?
April: Ed, our director, sent it to me a few months ago – he was already so passionate about it, and I instantly understood why. Lily is a wonderful writer, the play is so confidently written, and I’d never read a story with these characters told this way. It’s complex and important, but it’s also charming. So when Ed asked me to play Tommy, I was over the moon! It’s definitely a challenge and one I’m excited about.
Q: Was there any particular reason for two women to be cast as two teenage boys? (and of course why not… but wondering if there was a specific reason)
April: It’s the very first thing that Lily our writer has put at the top of the script. It’s really about asking the audience why are we totally comfortable with people who look like me and Helen doing certain things that we then find challenging when people called Tommy or Jordan do the same – wearing lipstick for starters! What is this idea of ‘masculinity’ that limits so many people? It’s a kind of visual irony that I think creates some really thought-provoking moments about the rules and restrictions of gender norms – we all face them, often without realising. Some of these are so built into our world, and I hope the play makes audiences think about that.
Q: You have worked alongside Helen Aluko (Jordan) before – what are you looking forward to most about working together?
April: We actually shared a dressing room for two whole years when we were in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! Honestly, it’s the best thing to be able to work with such a close friend, and on top of that she’s such a clever and playful actress. It will really help having so much chemistry and trust there from the go.
Q: What can you tell us about Tommy?
Tommy is a fifteen-year-old boy who suffers from anxiety and has had to grow up very quickly. Sometimes he feels calm and grounded when he wears lipstick, eyeshadow, mascara. I think a lot of people can sometimes feel they’re living in a world that wasn’t meant for them and they spend their time worrying if they’ll ever fit in. Tommy is definitely one of those people.
Q: When was Tommy first inspired to put on lipstick? And, why does Tommy put on lipstick?
April: Well I feel like that question is part of what the play is talking about. No one’s ever asked me why
April: I’m wearing lipstick, but when Tommy puts it on, there are all kinds of questions. Why do we do that?
Q: Can you tell us about the relationship Tommy has with his family and Jordan and how they shape the story?
April: Tommy doesn’t give much away about his family but they are supportive of him. Jordan is Tommy’s neighbour and is the popular, good looking kid at school but having a really hard time with his parents. He drops in to give Tommy his school homework and catches Tommy wearing lipstick and that’s where the play starts. It’s an unlikely friendship but they accept each other when no one else would.
Q: The production is proud to be supporting Diversity Role Models can you tell us more about the charity and the post-show talk?
April: Rupert our producer (also a friend from the Harry Potter days!) has volunteered with Diversity Role Models, and has raved about the impact of the work they do in schools to encourage inclusion, empathy and embrace of difference. Tommy and Jordan are struggling with being told that they are different, so it feels like such a great match. The post-show talk will be raising money to support their work, and it feels amazing to know that we’re doing that whilst telling this story.
Q: What is at the heart of Lipstick?
April: Young hearts. Love. Expressing yourself in a big scary world. There’s such an emotional rollercoaster in finding a connection with another person, and these two characters go through that whilst fighting many other battles.
Q: What do you hope the audience will take from watching the show?
April: I hope they leave feeling empowered to go and be their authentic selves! That’s a big ambition, but that’s how the play makes me feel. I also think they play has something great to say about listening to and accepting other people’s experience of the world – something we all need reminding of.
Q: Why should everyone get along to see Lipstick?
April: Southwark Playhouse is such a happening venue, and this is bold new writing at its best! I’m so inspired by what this play has to say, and we’ll be going ALL OUT with it in March!
Director – Ed White
Lighting Designer – Alex Lewer
Sound Designer – Charlie Smith
Stage Manager – Lucy Ventham
Producer – Rupert Henderson
Rupert Henderson Productions presents
by Lily Shahmoon
4 – 28 March 2020
Start Time 8pm
Matinee Starts at 3.30pm
Running Time 80 mins (TBC)