A little more mascara: Lipstick, a fairy tale of Iran @Omnibus_Theatre

A nightclub. A cultural exchange to Iran. Rose flavoured marzipan. A drag nightclub. An unlikely series of elements come together to tell a polished and compelling tale of oppression and freedom in Lipstick: A fairy tale of Iran. Written and directed by Sarah Chew, it’s currently playing at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham.

On a simple stage we’re introduced to Orla (Siobhan O’Kelly) and her best friend Mark (Nathan Kiley). They’re about to open a drag club night in Soho. But Orla’s just returned from a theatre residency in Iran as part of some government sponsored initiative.  And by chance she’s seen a failed revolution.

A daring drag cabaret stage show in soho pales in comparison to the everyday acts of defiance she sees in Tehran.  Life in Iran seems so much more complicated than how its depicted in western media. Meanwhile life in London is not without its drawbacks either.

The show uses lip syncing, drag cabaret, and fragmented memories to paint a picture of oppression and freedom in both London and Tehran.

O’Kelly is a terrific as the witness and narrator of this compelling and unique story. Kiley (who also performs as Topsie Redfern) is a treat as the sad young man who turns into a beautiful woman at midnight. His interpretations of the various cabaret standards serve the narrative well.

The piece is based on the time Chew spent in Tehran at the time of the Green Uprising in 2010. This followed the contested 2009 Iranian election. Where people came out onto the streets urging the removal of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from office.

As a witness to everyday atrocities and acts of kindness has inspired an original and sensitive piece. One that reflects on universal desires of freedom and free expression.

Lipstick: A fairy tale of Iran is part of the Omnibus 96 Festival and is at the Omnibus Theatre until 24 March. There are a series of events alongside the show including Topsie Lates every Thursday and post show talks every Wednesday. Check the website for details.


Photos by Flavia Fraser-Canon

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