Review: Lippy / The Extension, Wandsworth Arts Fringe

As Wandsworth Arts Fringe starts, I visit two shows lipsync extravaganza Lippy and sensory immersive trip The Extension

“I think we need to go back”

This year’s Wandsworth Arts Fringe has now opened and on a scorching hot day, I took the opportunity to dive into the cooling Arches under St Mary’s Church to see Word of Mouth and Rachel Causer’s one-woman lip-sync show Lippy  and surendred to the unknown with Electrick Village’s immersive show The Extension. Quite the contrasting pair and a fascinating insight into the creative ambition underpinning this festival.

Lippy self-describes as “an innovative, semi-autobiographical lip-sync show” and over the space of an hour, Causer manages to pack a lot in. Delving incrementally back into her past, there’s an exploration of the difficulties of becoming a young woman in contemporary society. And she allies that with a journey through some of the funniest comedians we’ve had, looking at how that society has shaped their voices, or otherwise as the case maybe.

For it is the likes of Victoria Wood, Sarah Millican, and Andi Osho who offer a way to get through the day, with all its micro-aggressions of misogyny. And the likes of Joan Rivers and Amy Schumer offer a hope that the patriarchy might actually to smashed (how interesting to revisit Schumer’s paradigm-shifting Glamour Awards speech and consider how she has been made shoulder all the responsibility of the perceived messaging of new film I Feel Pretty).

And as Rachel regresses to the 15-year-old self that can’t help but be impressionable, getting to the root of her contemporary dissatisfaction, you can’t help but feel a glimmer of hope that things might possibly be changing, for her if not the panels of comedy quiz shows on TV. You will also want to fire up YouTube and watch any number of Victoria Wood clips in all their hilarious magnificence, truly the biggest loss in that year of so many.

My other experience of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe was Electrick Village’s The Extension, “an immersive, sensory experience, enhanced by the use of virtual reality”. And as with so many of these types of thing, you undertake them with a vow of secrecy, which makes for an interesting time in trying to review it. The set-up is around two scientists who are on the run after developing a technological innovation that the government wants their hands on. And they need our help…

Electrick Village’s ethos as a full-sensorial theatre company offers something of a clue as to the nature of The Extension but there’s nothing like the experience of surrendering to the unknown and letting yourself be guided into a strange new world. Over 25 minutes, you’ll be thrilled, unnerved, waltzed right off your feet as all your senses are engaged in gently surprising ways. The VR element is well-realised and finds real strength in the realm of possibilities that leaves you utterly unsure what is going to happen next.

Narratively, it’s a little too short to fully interrogate the larger issues its raises and in any case, that might distract from the experience of the…well…experience. Perhaps expanding its world to include a more tangible sense of the threat could be a way to further develop but as it is, it’s an intriguing piece to be sure.      

Running time: Lippy – 60 minutes, The Extension – 25 minutes
Main photo: Alex Harvey-Brown
Lippy is booking until 12th May and The Extension is booking until 18th May at the Wandsworth Arts Fringe

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