Review: Tipping The Velvet

Sally Messham
Sally Messham
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ADAPTED from Sarah Waters’ 1998 novel, Laura Wade’s vision of this Victorian love story is guaranteed to have Morningside tea-ladies spluttering with disapproval.

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Lyceum Theatre

It’s a coming-of-age tale in which butchered pigs sing 80’s pop songs and where sex is illustrated via trapeze. Strip all that back, however, and you’re still left with a strong story.

Here, young Nancy Astley - working for the family oyster business in a small Kentish town - becomes infatuated with male-impersonator Kitty Butler.

Astley soon becomes Butler’s dresser and before you can say ‘What will the neighbours think?’ the two begin a sexual relationship as well as a new, fully trousered, double-act in the West End.

Of course, it all goes sour. Thus begins Astley’s journey into homelessness, prostitution, as a kept society sex-pet, and, finally, redemption as a grounded socialist fighting the feminist cause.

Sound like a lot to take in? At three hours, it won’t be to everyone’s taste. Nevertheless, it’s an arousing, fast-paced exploration of class and sex, one that moves merrily along thanks to the punctuated narration of its music-hall master-of-ceremonies.

The ensemble cast aren’t here to make up the numbers either and the rearrangement of pop songs in a Victorian style is a nice touch - best exemplified when Astley manipulates a potential new lover into giving her a place to stay by way of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball.

Despite her lack of stage time, Laura Rogers brings panache to the role of Butler. However, who would have thought Nancy Astley was Sally Messham’s professional debut? The spunky, demure blonde has bundles of talent and will surely go on to great things.

As the narrator suggests, you might not get the ending you paid for... but you’ll leave grossly entertained nonetheless.

Run ends 14 November