Little Women, although a very popular book is ripe material for a
send up. The twee moralising characters and their selfless acts could be unintentionally humourous if you find the sweetness
slightly overbearing and worthy of a sick bag.
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!