Review: Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran, Omnibus Theatre

Queer feminist theatre/cabaret hybrid Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran leaves me dissatisfied at the Omnibus Theatre

Oh I really wanted to love this but I have to say I was rather disappointed. When a show self-describes as equal parts theatre and drag cabaret, you have to hope that it will achieve both aspects and aim to exceed expectations too but ultimately, it was a case of sashaying away for Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran.

There’s no lack of ambition here, not at all. Sarah Chew (writer and director) slips between Tehran, Derry and London as she explores cultural stereotyping, censorship, artistic freedom, sexual freedom, Iranian politics, Soho politics and even then I feel like I’ve missed tons out. Packed into a show which wants to blend cabaret and theatre, it just feels like too much.

So much insight in suffused into Chew’s script, based on her own experiences travelling to Iran, and delivered by Siobhan O’Kelly’s Orla, it is full of deeply compelling details as she discovers the richness of life there, something so many media portrayals fail (or refuse) to show as they seek to shape our opinions.

Tacked onto this, is Orla’s subsequent attempts to open a Soho drag bar with pal Mark (played by Nathan Kiley aka Topsie Redfern), as her journey of self-discovery forces her to reassess everything. It is a lot to ask and I’m not sure the play doesn’t buckle under the weight, leaving me somewhat unsatisfied.

That said, I admire the risktaking in exploring form. And heaven knows we need more queer feminist voices to be amplified so I recommend you go along anyway and then tell me how I’ve got it wrong…! 

Running time: 100 minutes (without interval)
Photos Flavia Fraser-Cannon
Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran is booking at the Omnibus Theatre until 24th March

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