One woman, a length of fluttering black silk, and supreme narcissicism do battle on an empty stage. Lucy Hopkins’s show opens with her avowing her intent to dazzle us, the unworthy, with high art.
Before long, the moths lay into her veil and ego alike, making for a hilariously fragmented hour of physical theatre, song and comedy.
“Dipping her biscuit into the tea of her own selfhood,” she crumbles into three alter egos, joined by a soggy romantic, and a ginger, snappy performer with a penchant for dramatic monologues in a Spanish-ish accent. The three voices ruthlessly send up the onanistic qualities of making art about yourself. A moistly fluttering rendition, and simultaneous translation of Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose is a particular highlight; anything that contradicts the character’s hopeless, love-lorn optimism is skimmed over or frowned at, right up to the shrieked chorus “Life is pink!” Our hostess is similarly reluctant to admit to her rose-tinted glasses, raving about the superiority her access to art gives her, even as her eyes fill with tears, and her vision is crowded out by two increasingly dominant other claimants on her body and voice.
There’s absolutely no danger of getting these tightly outlined characters confused. Lucy Hopkins studied at the Lecoq school, and although she’s said that her subsequent education under the French master of clowning Philippe Gaulier ended up with her being told she was boring (fellow pupil Sacha Baron Cohen got the same criticism) and looked like a sausage, her immaculate movements sizzle with the best kind of suppressed energy. Often, she’s sending up attempts to convey emotion physically in the first place. Her characters grow and blossom into awkward, fruitless trees, make uncomfortable references to fecund femininity and metaphoric birth, or bend down into bridges of friendship at the feet of unsuspecting strangers.
As Hopkins switches, faster and faster, from character to character, her black veil flaps and chokes her voice. Her art is stifling, as much as liberating. The desperate neediness brings the same sense of discomfort that you might get being a sole, unsatisfied audience member at a stand-up gig. Her vision of high art is no invulnerable standard under which to march – it’s just too hypocritical to admit that it needs us. Under assault from Hopkins’s incredible artillery of physical and vocal talents, its impossible to resist marching to the beat of her drum.