Lip Service have been entertaining audiences very well for 25 years. They return to Withering Looks, as Artistic Directors/ Performers Sue Ryding and Maggie Fox take the audience on a journey to 19th century Howarth and the Bronte Parsonage.
Audrey (Fox) and Olivia (Ryding), who are part of the National Institution for Bringing History to Life Society, don ‘authentic’ Victorian costume and present a potted history of the life and work of the famous sisters. Anne’s just popped out for sugar (they couldn’t afford to pay another actor, they joked) but Charlotte and Emily are here to keep us entertained. The ladies of the society introduce us to the sisters, to Nell the housekeeper, to the lost souls on the moor, even to Merle Oberon, Lawrence Olivier and David Niven.
There was a hilarious insight into the sister’s work ethic; Charlotte and Emily copied from each other as if in a school exam and a fabulous play on words, ‘They’re calling Wuthering Heights filth and blasphemy’ says a distraught Emily. ‘Oh, I think Wuthering Heights is a much better title’ replies Charlotte.
With clocks to the audience, cheeky asides and knowing glances, this very funny double act has the packed audience in the palm of their hands, and they participate enthusiastically as if at a pantomime. There are lovely, relevant jokes about cuts in arts funding and ‘that hat’ Princess Eugenie wore at the recent Royal Wedding.
Despite the talent on stage though, the plot often stalls which affects the energy levels of the whole piece. A particularly marvellous re-enactment of the 1939 MGM film, Wuthering Heights shows Ryding and Fox have much more to offer than this production really allows.
For this reviewer, a little less ‘withering looks’ to the audience and a little more substance to the plot may lead to a more fully-rounded and satisfying experience. But there's no denying that if you enjoy a good spoof, this is for you.