thu 21/10/2021

Lippy, Young Vic | reviews, news & interviews

Lippy, Young Vic

Lippy, Young Vic

An unconventional meditation on storytelling confounds

Dead women tell no tales: the suicidal family awaits the inevitableEllie Kurttz

How do we respond to a tragedy of infinite mystery? We investigate, we speculate, and we seek to impose meaning, to produce a story that safely contains unfathomable horror. However, those hoping for such reassurance via a traditional theatrical narrative in Bush Moukarzel and Dead Centre’s Lippy will come away disappointed. This darkly absurdist piece floats searching, fundamental questions, but answers came there none.

Fifteen years ago, in the small Irish town of Leixlip, police discovered the bodies of 83-three-old Frances Mulrooney (Joanna Banks) and her three nieces, Catherine (Eileen Walsh), Bridg-Ruth (Caitríona Ní Mhurchú) and Josephine (Liv ODonoghue). The women had barricaded their home and starved themselves to death over some 40 days, leaving no explanation for their actions. So determined were they to destroy all trace of self that they methodically shredded, by hand, all personal documents and stuffed them into bin bags.

Lippy, Young VicMoukarzel initially approaches this material in startlingly comic fashion, opening with a screamingly meta “post-show talk”. A Young Vic usher relays messages to self-parodying Moukarzel and David Heap as an obnoxious luvvie interviewer and pretentious, egotistical actor/director respectively. The latter, also a lip reader, was brought in by police to advise on the Leixlip case, but a revealing game and series of clips – ranging from Casino and 2001: A Space Odyssey (pictured above right, with Moukarzel) to Mitt Romney’s campaign trail – demonstrate the unreliability of the process. 

But Lippy's core concern is the ethical consideration of usurping someone else’s voice. Its creators refuse to enact that violation by placing words in the mouths of the real-life suicidal family or taking ownership of their story, although there is an irreconcilable tension between the stated desire to listen to “the true words of the powerless” and respect their chosen silence. Of course, by placing them before an audience, Moukarzel and co-director Ben Kidd have already discounted their final wish to be erased, and there are fragments of interpretation in the surreal fever dream of a second half, with overt religious tropes dominating.

Lippy, Young VicThis deliberately alienating, non-linear performance art section depicts the women’s slow march towards death. Andrew Clancy and Grace O’Hara’s stark design produces eerie, arresting tableaux: bulging bin bags rising like balloons; chalk outlines scratched onto the wall; an entire room keeling. Adam Welsh’s soundscape distorts and disconnects, from echoing, muffled and mismatched voices to the creeping dread conjured by country music (or is that just me?). At the centre of this off-kilter sensorial assault, there’s committed work from the quartet, unified in their heavy-limbed movement and blank despair.

Lippy’s Beckettian ambitions are laid bare in the opaque, Not I-referencing climactic filmed monologue, searingly delivered by Walsh (pictured above left with Caitríona Ní Mhurchú). It’s a memorable capper to this visceral experiment, whose unrelenting bleakness and tricksy, self-conscious meta-theatricality infuriate as well as fascinate. A distinctive, but unarguably onerous, journey into the unknown and unknowable.

Lippy's core concern is the ethical consideration of usurping someone else’s voice


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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