Lipstick at the Southwark Playhouse: Press night review by Stephen Vowles 

Writer Lily Shahmoon has to be congratulated for writing a play that is so for the moment, where the labels which we should or should not attach to yourselves is being debated – and the use of certain pronouns when it comes to describing ourselves also bringing contention. 

With Lipstick, her two actors Helen Aluko as Jordan and April Hughes as Tommy, are both acting up a storm. This is their story about gender and the right to be you. Their anxiousness and nervousness forms an integral part of their roles and the way they become totally immersed in their respective characters is astonishing. 

They both inject – via very thoughtful direction by Ed White – comedy elements that tackle preconceived notions about how they should behave as human beings and also how society views rebellious teens. This is about friendships, creating a mutual bond and to have someone’s back in a moment of crisis. 

Shahmoon’s dialogue is very believable and demonstrates to a very high level of accuracy the vocabulary these two people would use in arguments about being young, their very personal problems associated with youth and the need for mental and physical stimulations. 

Jordan’s character comes from a broken home and finds excitement by stealing tampons from the local shop as her mother needs them – and finds solace at the bottom of a vodka bottle. Tommy has mental health  issues and is dealing with his/her sexual awakening. A period of self discovery determined by the belief that gender neutrality can exist and you are not defined by your sexual organs. Having dutch courage to deal with ‘stuff’, an element beautifully played out by these two very fine actors. 

This is also a very moody piece with the temperament raised by the very clever use of LED strip lights by Alex Lewer that form the fourth wall between the cast and audience but also act as a metaphor illuminating the life paths these characters have taken. 

This is a captivating play. Honest, truthful and touching and as the characters often ask, “Are you OK?”  – and yes we are, with a capital O & K – 21st century theatre!

Photos by Lidia Crisafulli


Lipstick runs to Saturday 28 March at Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD. Box office: 020 7407 0234 

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