From infancy to old age, gender has offered us a tradition of expectations against which society can unwillingly order and compare us. Yet, as the Hiccup Project’s Chess and Cristina so ambitiously prove in their energetic marvel of a two-woman show Lovely Girls, these expectations result in doubt that has too long been ignored.
Playing at the Southaide ZOO, Lovely Girls illustrates the pained contradictions of womanhood through a series of quick-paced vignettes. Follow Chess and Cristina through their riotous double entendres, their slapstick choreography, and their poignant monologues about gender normalisation, and you won’t be able to help but root for them.
These women are true masters at controlling an audience. They are absurd, honest, and will leave you weeping from laughter, then shock, then sympathy. At times you’ll laugh riotously while watching two best friends have a tantrum on stage, but at others all you’ll need to move you are their profound and honest voices, teaching you subtly as they brave their stories to a dark room.
Technically, the show is a masterpiece. Chess and Cristina know exactly when to use their effects and when not to; from exuberant displays of light while dancing through their childhood, to hilarious uses of props and costumes, to a perfectly bare stage and a small spotlight when needed. Not only do these effects enhance the show’s duality of old vs new femininity and limitation vs freedom, they ground the show’s subtle metaphors in something tangible, whether that be a stack of paper and some paper clips, or a heap of props.
The show’s choreography, however, is something that absolutely can’t be missed. It is rare to find a show that mixes dance and comedy while feeding a core thematic message throughout. The dancing evolves from improvised caricature posing, to attempted classical grace, to puppet-like obedience, to a final, joyful celebration. Additionally, never does the dancing feel forced, since each is spurred by a genuine emotion or theme in the stories. As the show swells and drops, so does its choreography, and, as a result, so does the audience.
Overall, Lovely Girls is truly a force to be reckoned with, as it manages to be both explosive in spectacle, and intimate in material. The show is poignant yet punchy, self-aware yet uninhibited, clumsy yet endearing; but at its core, it is a show that Edinburgh’s Fringe is long overdue for, and one that everyone must sit front and centre to experience.
Main Image Credit: Molly Hawkins