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Thursday 14 December 2017

Review: Lippy

We're at the wrong play. Or, maybe we're just late.

These are the things that occupy our mind as soon as the MC on stage begins his "post-show Q&A" with actor David Heap. There's a smear of blood on David's face. Maybe it's all part of the plan. Yes, it's an unusual start, but we are definitely going somewhere with this. Hopefully.

Heap's actor character, we're told, is also a lip reader - that's how he got the gig for the fictional show we're meant to have witnessed (keep up down the back).

We're informed that he was once called upon by the gardai to lend his services to the (true) story of an aunt and three nieces who starved themselves to death at their Leixlip home 14 years ago.

He was asked to study CCTV footage of their last public sighting. And that, folks, is what Lippy is (sort of) about; a horrendous 'suicide pact' that remains shrouded in mystery.

Employing all manners of metaphors and theatrical tricks, Lippy doesn't set out to put words into the mouths of "the women of Leixlip".

Instead, writer, co-director and cast member Bush Moukarzel's (pictured) frightfully ambitious production plays by its own rules, eventually taking us back to the scene of the crime.

Alas, this wildly pretentious and utterly frustrating play is all over the place. It's almost a parody, in fact, of post-modern, theatrical posturing, where a coherent story and/or narrative is sacrificed in favour of half-formed themes and art-school ideologies.

At one stage, Heap places a bucket over his head and sits under his own personal rain cloud. Weird for the sake of being weird? Oh, you had better believe it.

Forensic detectives sketch out images on the walls. Heap disappears only to re-emerge from a black bin bag.

The women (led by Joanna Banks) question why the devil is always a man, later engaging in a sing-song with Heap (who also plays a father figure).

UNREALISTIC

Willie Nelson's Home is Where You're Happy plays out on a transistor radio. And, of course, the script falls into the trap of giving us some of the most unrealistic dialogue imaginable.

To top it all off, there's a type of art installation piece to close us out, with a complex monologue courtesy of "cameo playwright" Mark O'Halloran.

It's aiming for Beckett, but Lippy falls wide of the mark. Dead Centre's award-winning production has, of course, created a stir among arts circles.

True, it pushes boundaries and there are some fascinating ideas in there, but Moukarzel has no idea how to piece them together. Crikey, it's like an episode of Twin Peaks; a bizarre, impenetrable and deeply unpleasant viewing experience.

Running until Feb 14 HHIII

PEACOCK STAGE, CHRIS WASSER

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