Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

Lip-slicking history lecture

31 January 2020

Jonathan W. Marshall learns about the history of lipstick while Daley King whips up a batch in Lipstuck.

Review: PICA and Daley King, Lipstuck ·
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, 28 January 2020 ·
Review by Jonathan W. Marshall ·

The performative lecture is a well-established format in live art and contemporary performance. In such works, a solo performer (here Daley King) delivers an episodic lecture on a particular topic (here the history of lipstick), while they matter-of-factly conduct a set of relatively banal or straightforward, unadorned actions.

In Lipstuck, King is most likely inspired by UK artist Bobby Baker’s cooking themed pieces, which wowed Perth audiences in the early 2000s. King uses various ingredients and kitchen tools to make DIY lipstick.

As in Baker’s work, the drama of Lipstuck comes from the performer’s close attention to their tasks, their off-hand charisma, and some of the surprising or not altogether obvious connections or conclusions that their text provokes.

Photo: Daniel James Grant

All theatre requires that the performer hosts the audience in some fashion or other, and King is particularly good at this. The small group of spectators are circled around the set – a Tarkett-style wooden floor reminiscent of an old kitchen – some sitting on chairs invitingly draped with homely prints and knits. While not the same as being invited into an actual house, the set-up helps King to work with the spectators in such a way that their participation feels free and unforced.

Some of the strongest, most affective and political points in Lipstuck overall arise when audience members read out short reflections about wearing lipstick taken from responses to interviews King has conducted with the general public. A recurrent theme in these responses is negotiating the sometimes oppressive, sometimes joyous, conventions around gendered self-presentation.

King’s musings about lipstick and queer identity are rather what one might expect, and they encourage the audience to embrace colour and diversity while rejecting being forced into sexualised self-images that are not of our own making.

Though it does not necessarily offer any radically new information or perspectives, Lipstuck is nevertheless a very skilled and enjoyable show. I hope it will tour.

Lipstuck runs until 1 February 2020

Pictured top: Daley King in ‘Lipstuck’. Photo: Daniel James Grant

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Author —
Jonathan W. Marshall

Jonathan W. Marshall is associate professor and postgraduate coordinator at WAAPA, Edith Cowan University. Jonathan has written for RealTime Australia, Big Issue, The Age, Theatreview NZ, IN Press, and presented on radio, since 1992. He grew up beside the Yarra River, near a long metal slide, set into the side of a rocky slope.

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