IN BRIEF Two teenagers struggle to find themselves in well-written portrait of difference
A single tube of lipstick propels this interesting play about Tommy and Jordan, two teenage boys. Tommy likes lipstick. Jordan likes how Tommy looks in lipstick. Seeking stability away from his warring parents, Jordan finds a kind of refuge at Tommy’s house next door. They cultivate a connection based on outsidership, Tommy having been absent from school.
They do what teenagers do, experimenting to try and find out who they are and how they fit into the world. Searching for connection and trying to avoid rejection. But Jordan’s assumptions that he and Tommy are similar are shattered when the full extent of Tommy’s acute anxiety comes out.
Their relationship is often gentle, sometimes harsh, occasionally funny – but it feels authentic.
That painful tension of transition between childhood and adulthood that causes so much anguish is well expressed in Lily Shahmoon’s play which treats its characters with understanding.
Directed by Ed White, the acting is finely-tuned; both are memorable performances. April Hughes as Tommy captures the rather drug- subdued straightforwardness (masking the reality) of Tommy, at one point making a truly startling transition into his alter-ego Tina. The final confrontation where Tommy’s reality hits Jordan is impassioned and moving.
Helen Aluko as Jordan shows us the inconsistency of someone exploring their sexuality, at times lashing out at others for what they most recognise in themselves.
It was an intriguing idea to use female actors to portray the boys – it subtly changes the dynamic and somehow allows us to focus on the feelings rather than the sexuality of the situation.
LIPSTICK runs at Southwark Playhouse until 28th March. Information and tickets here