When Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding, aka Lipservice were at university they took Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea and turned it into a rollicking gag-filled comedy. Since then, they have worked their magic on The Importance Of Being Earnest and Wuthering Heights. This clever, affectionate reworking of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women contains enough zany antics alongside some very clever comedy skits to keep this talented pair going for a long time to come.
The deliberately cheap-looking set pieces, including ragged puppets and a mannequin, add to the shambolic feel that reminds you of Acorn Antiques. Martin Johns' wobbly set is delightful as - unlike most stage constructions - this one is supposed to move!
Fox and Riding thrill the packed audience with their physical comedy and their 'knowing' jokes. They inject fresh life into the book with a gentle mockery but without insulting the intelligence of anyone who holds a special place for the original piece in their bookcase. They play a multitude of roles and their energy is infectious as is their warped humour. Fox in particular has the ability to make the audience laugh just by being there. Guest star Matthew Vaughan gives a really game performance and revels in his variety of female guises.
Spoofing a famous book is no easy task as there is the overriding feeling that you must have to dumb the material down in order to make the audience smirk. But Lip Service focus on the points in the book when you are too afraid to laugh for fear of offending your old English teacher. They then add their own crazy brand of humour and mix this into the proceedings. At times, Mark Chadderton's direction means that the second half does drag a little. But this should not ruin an evening in which no kittens were harmed but the image of those whinging, 'holier than thou' Little Women will never seem the same again!
- Glenn Meads