Lippy

“If one understands a story, it has been told badly.” This is the Brechtian maxim with which writer Bush Moukarzel prefaces his work and to which he adheres in order to create a piece of theatre which, in his words, “mediates on the inexplicable fact of death: an event without explanation, which nonetheless prompts us to search for explanation.” His subject: four women who boarded themselves inside their home in 2000 and entered a suicide pact which lasted for forty days. Nobody knows why they did it. This production asks what the role of the author - and of theatre - can be in exploring such an event without putting words into silent mouths.

This is the most intelligent production I have seen at the Fringe this year. It is intense, dark, playful, impeccably produced and incredibly moving.

Lippy is therefore in part an exploration in meaninglessness. The production uses unnerving verbal, visual and soundscaping techniques to subvert the audience’s understanding of the theatrical space: a solid wall is a gauze; a man speaking into a microphone is a man lip-syncing with a recording; a technician is an “angel of death.” The audience is never allowed to be sure of what is happening, or where it is leading. Even the quasi-realistic first section, a post-show talk which satirises the pretensions of actors through the figure of the interviewer, is unnerving, because it is not the show the audience came to see. It does not even pose as the post-show discussion of the show the audience came to see. The air feels heavy with the weight of the unexplained.

A sudden increase in dramatic tension occurs when a ‘live’ lip-reading session is held; all vestiges of realism are dropped as the play delves into the poetic. A change in lighting reveals a stage that is not the stage at which we thought ourselves to be looking. Sound designer Adam Welsh (also playing the technician, an act of metatheatricality in parallel with Moukarzel’s playing of the interviewer) has created an incredibly rich, painfully overwhelming wall of sound which descends on both stage and audience with an intense weight. Under this cacophony, surreal events progress at a pace which is the most profound kind of slow. For the rest of its length, the production keeps us on the edge of a revelation that we cannot grasp, because it cannot do so either. I shall leave what follows shrouded in its own mystery, other than to say that the five actors featuring in this section (Joanna Banks, Gina Moxley, Caitriona Ni Mhurchu, Liv O’Donoghue, Dan Reardon) are all utterly compelling.

This is the most intelligent production I have seen at the Fringe this year. It is intense, dark, playful, impeccably produced and incredibly moving. I’ve not been able to get it out of my head since.

Reviews by Megan Dalton

Summerhall

Light Killer

★★★
Paradise in The Vault

House of Tragic She

★★★
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

Making Light

Upstairs @ Le Monde

Riding the Midnight Express with Billy Hayes

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

The Marijana Method

★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Fourteen years ago four women made an extraordinary decision. They decided to die. We weren’t there. This is not their story. We don’t know what they said. We are only putting words in their mouths. A haunting investigation into why we tell stories in the face of tragedy, Lippy was widely acknowledged as the most extraordinary piece of theatre to emerge from Ireland in 2013. This is the UK premiere. Irish Times Theatre Award: Best Production 2013. 'Lippy is like nothing else you’ll see' ***** (Irish Times). 'Extraordinary' ***** (Irish Theatre Magazine).