A MOMENT ON THE LIPS
presented at the Old Fitzroy hotel March 2014
A fine ensemble cast assemble for this modern naturalistic take on women’s issues (Feminism? Femininity? Gender?) The script offers sizeable chunks of dialogue for the women to sink their teeth into and seems to tread a tight rope between a stark naturalistic representation of its characters and a kind of deep parody. Which makes for some exciting conflict but also a tricky, problematic set of questions for interpretation.
The humour can be disconcerting are we laughing at them or with them? Are we laughing at ourselves? Are we laughing at women or is there a broader spectrum of values being mocked. These are of course more than just a set of female characters, they are journalists, artists, lawyers, sisters, partners, lovers, strangers and friends. They are ambitious, they are kind, they are cruel, they are confident, they are insecure, they are just a little bit self-centred with just a touch of casual racism and a hint of homophobia – they are a myriad of interlocking facets; all of which speaks volumes about the complexity of the performances on offer.
This is an elusive quality to pinpoint so instead best ride through the waves of scene by scene as the culture of career surrounding these women their ambitions and challenges they face in vignette glimpses as their successes and fears ebb and flow like the changing tide of fortune.
You can’t help feel the inherent mockery of middle class privilege underlying the message. Is this a play supporting women or does its frame a more difficult question surrounding the aspirational values they embrace? The dialogue edges on issues such as class, cultural privilege marriage equality, terrorism, violence against women and racism – dipping its toe from time to time into difficult waters “Do you have a problem with globalisation?”
It never really dives into a full cultural critique of political structures. Instead the focus is on the personal and the interior lives of the women which populate this world their ambitions and their foibles. And boy do they have foibles. Much of the conflict comes from these women’s capacity to lie to each other or to themselves. This makes it difficult to be sympathetic when mistakes are so, so middle-class. But there is a certain amount of intrigue as to where this will end up and (spoilers aside) the charisma of the performances carries more than you’ll want from a night at the theatre.
Questions of feminist representation, sisterhood and patriarchy are raised (the play is writ by a man, Jonathon Gavin and directed by another Mackenzie Steele), and should provoke some interesting post-show discussions without necessarily forcing the issue. Jodi McAlister touches on these in her critique here, and these questions are worth asking, although I certainly don’t know the answers. But you need to see it for yourself before wrestling with this too much. And I suggest you do.
This is an actor driven piece borne out of another all-female cast production: Top Girls at the New Theatre. Three of the cast members were a part of that production – it’s clear that part of the motivations for doing this play is to showcase the talents of the cast, with seven strong female roles to explore. The direction and design is unobtrusive and do the actors work justice; who in turn serve the script as well.
This is straight-up naturalism done well, so if you like your theatre engaging and driven by intelligent dialogue with strong characters and a social awareness this is for you. It’s replete with Sydney references and in-jokes, very local, very nouveau-modern, turn of the millennia chic with fine production values and excellent casting.
A Moment On The Lips playing at the Old Fitzroy Hotel until April 12th, 2014.
Presented by Mad March Hare Theatre Company with Sydney Independent Theatre Company, featuring Beth Aubrey, Sarah Aubrey, Lucy Goleby, Sabryna Te’o, Ainslie McGlynn, Claudia Barrie and Sonya Kerr. Written by Jonathon Gain, directed by Mackenzie Steele.
Entry filed under: Sydney THEATRE.