“Uniquely told and poignant”

The ’96 Festival has returned by popular demand to the Omnibus Theatre with more fantastic performances, productions and cabarets than ever before! For those who don’t know, the festival is named after the legendary Pride party that occurred on Clapham Common in 1996. The festival celebrates the queer community with performances on topics of gender, politics, people of colour and more. It is now in its 5th year.

This year’s headlining show is ‘Lipstick: A Fairytale of Iran’. This conceptual and thought-provoking piece by writer and director, Sarah Chew, is as intelligent as it is captivating. Set in 2010, Chew’s play is constructed around the time she visited Iran on a theatre residency just after the election that caused the infamous riots and removed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the presidential office.

Chew’s play is a two-hander, performed by Siobhan O’Kelly (Orla) and Nathan Kelly (Mark), and tells the story of two friends opening a cabaret drag night in Soho. Their opening night becomes highly inspired by Orla’s trip to Iran. Through her visit, Orla speaks to her audience about her experiences with the hard borders and cultural differences over a mix of theatre, drag and cabaret.

Photo: Flavia Fraser-Cannon

Meanwhile, Kelly’s character (a talented and successful drag performer in his own right) physically expresses the events and characters that Orla meets along her travels through mime, lip-syncing and cabaret songs. Orla and Mark’s relationship is also explored and tested through this journey through a series of voicemails and you warm to their characters and their friendship.

O’Kelly is captivating as Orla and a great storyteller. This one act play is a little rough around the edges but well-paced and safe in her very capable hands. Kelly’s Mark makes his own moments on stage with some beautiful songs and assistance to the tale.

Chew’s story is interesting and needs to be told – you leave the theatre enlightened, angry, hopeful and a variety of other mixed emotions. That is what theatre is meant to always do – and LIPSTICK delivers. The stage, a cabaret-esque dressing room covered in material with a runway is lovely. Further polishing of the script and direction could see LIPSTICK travel further in the theatre and fringe scene.

The main pull of LIPSTICK is its plot – uniquely told and poignant. And if The ’96 Festival continues at this standard, count me in for every show!




‘LIPSTICK: A Fairytale of Iran’ plays at The Omnibus Theatre, Clapham Common until March 24th.

Tickets can be bought HERE!

For more information on other performances for the ’96 Festival, CLICK HERE.