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Withering Looks (tour – Radlett Centre)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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It’s a dangerous game, sending up national icons – even when it’s done with great affection, not to mention appreciation, of the originals. Not to mention considerable skill. LipService’s latest tour of their skit on the Brontë sisters has its moments of fun, but it also has its longeurs. Sometimes this can be caused by the atmosphere of the venue, or its audience. Sometimes it’s just because the joke goes on for too long.

If you’ve never seen Withering Looks before, it has a framework device, that of the National Institute for Bringing to History to Life. Complete with their stall of authorised (and only vaguely appropriate) mementos, two eager re-enactors play out a variation on the lives of Charlotte and Emily. We meet Anne only as a puppet in the window, but that’s because she’s just slipped out for a cup of sugar.

Part of the joke is that dumpy Charlotte is played by the tall Maggie Fox and the more willowy Emily by the shorter Sue Ryding. Ryding also plays the old nurse cum mid-of-all-work Nellie as well as Mr Moorcroft in a slightly bizarre run-through of Jane Eyre. The “I so like being a ghost” number works well, as do the two versions of Wuthering Heights, first as a penny-plain toy theatre show and then as a delicious spoof of the Laurence Olivier-[Merle Oberon film with all its stilted dialogue, pared-down plot, fake scenery and lushly romantic score.


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