Last Thursday as a drama department we took to the Lyric Hammersmith, to see Laura Wade’s adaptation of Victorian-set novel, Tipping the Velvet, and were incredibly fortunate to be treated to a pre-show talk for Bedalians from the director, Lyndsey Turner. Fresh from also directing Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet at the National Theatre she was witty, engrossing and clever all at once.
Tipping the Velvet is the story of two young women taking to the music halls in London as male impersonators and falling in love on their journey. It was Sarah Water’s debut novel in 1998 and set in the 1890s. The play took the tradition of a Victorian music hall and added music, comedy and a celebration of sexuality. Turner’s direction of the women’s physical intimacy was of nothing I’d seen before, they had the women suspended into the air, above their bed, intertwined with ropes. This allowed them to explore the meaning of their act as oppose to only the physicality and I felt it showed a sense of closeness between the women.
Throughout the play they included modern music sung in a choir to allow the story to be modernised and more engaging, for example Prince’s song Kiss was used when the women were performing in their music hall act. This intertwines the Victorian idea of performing in a music hall yet performing music of this century created a powerful balance between Victorian and modern ideas.
The performance was a success, especially considering how difficult it must be to adapt a novel onto stage whilst trying to stay true to the original story.
By Nina Rebeiz, 6.2