Tipping The Velvet

Published September 29, 2015

What’s it all about?

Take your seat in the opulent setting of the Lyric Hammersmith and be transported to an era of music hall sensations and vaudeville titillation. In the audience also sits Nancy, a girl who shucks oysters by day and dreams of stage darling Kitty Butler by night. When Kitty’s rose finally ends up in her lap one evening – not a euphemism… not yet at least – she’s swept into a world of passion and stardom. But with first love comes first heartbreak, and in this epic saga, Nancy’s life spins off into an unpredictable whirlwind of sexual and social exploration.

Now, while that synopsis may be enough to tempt you to buy a ticket, there’s another huge reason why this adaptation of Sarah Waters’ exuberant love story is one of 2015’s must-sees: it marks the reunion of director Lyndsey Turner and playwright Laura Wade, the team behind the Royal Court Theatre’s Posh. And if you thought you’d seen the last of the duo’s acapella pop megamixes, you’d be wrong.

Miley Cyrus, Prince and Sinead O’Connor all make it into the production, as do aerial silk acrobatics, singing puppet carcasses and explosive, orgasmic confetti. Playful, sexy, often deliciously silly, Tipping The Velvet may break all the rules but it sure has fun doing so.

Who’s in it?

Sally Messham is glorious as Nancy, finding the edge and bravery hidden within her small town innocence and fearful vulnerability, and launching the character into her world of discovery with a courageous and joyful performance.

The electricity between Messham and Laura Rogers – who is both enticing and cold as Kitty – crackles from the stage, while a poised Kirsty Besterman steals scenes as her dominatrix lover Diana with a cupboard of eye boggling tricks up her sleeve.

What should I look out for?

The moment when These Boots Are Made For Walking becomes a feminist, socialist anthem. I won’t lie, there was whooping.

Lizzie Clachan’s design, which pops, sizzles and surprises; as Nancy evolves, it does too, subtly morphing from quaint music hall traditions and restrictive corsets to neon walls and Doc Martens.

A hilarious appearance by the Lyric Hammersmith’s controversial 2012 show Three Kingdoms.

In a nutshell?

Playful, exuberant and continually theatrically ingenious, Laura Wade and Lyndsey Turner prove that if you’re going to break all the rules, you may as well have fun in the process.

What’s being said on Twitter?

Will I like it?

If you’re a Kneehigh fan, enjoyed the sometimes surreal staging of Posh or were exhilarated by the ingenious creativity of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time then maybe it’s time to grow up, and what better way to do so than with a taste of adult fun with this unpredictable, moving, sexy and gloriously creative romp.

Tipping The Velvet plays at the Lyric Hammersmith until 24 October. You can book tickets through the theatre’s website.

Related shows