Tipping The Velvet @ The Royal Lyceum Theatre ~ Review

When studying costume, watching plays, films, ballets and operas comes as part of a very sweet deal. Enjoying plays becomes “research”, and I am more than happy to be taking part.

My first theatre trip with the class was to see Tipping The Velvet at The Royal Lyceum Theatre. After hearing several good reviews I had high expectations and luckily, It didn’t disappoint. I had never been to the Lyceum theatre and as a disclaimer I want to add that my enjoyment of the play could be partly down to the impressive surroundings that this theatre holds. A must see for anyone new to Edinburgh!

Tipping the Velvet takes the history of music halls and mashes them together with something altogether more modern, a victorian lesbian love affair. Based on the novel by Sarah Walters, the story follows a young woman named Nan who falls in love with a male impersonator and follows her to London. She finds various ways to support herself as she journeys through the city. Some of her methods are definitely not for the faint hearted.

But I think that despite the heavy theme of love gained and heartbreak the play was a joy to watch (particularly the first half). I was really impressed with Laura Rodgers as the character and love interest, Kitty Butler. The play was adapted by Laura Wade and Sally Messham was chosen to play the lead as Nan. I had heard it was her first role since graduating and I have to say well done, it’s not an easy role to play and she held her own in the deep end. She told BBC;

“I picked up the book as soon as I got the role and I loved it, it’s like a Dickensian novel, you get a lot of Victorian novels about gay men and very few about lesbians and what Laura and Sarah have done is to give them a rich history.”

And now down to the good stuff! The costumes were equally as impressive, seeing as many of the women were presented in “unlady-like” dress and often in shirts and trousers! It was an interesting take on the more butch women of Victorian society. The play is set in the late 1890’s and it is clear that it remained true to the trends and silhouette. However, the colours of a few garments were sometimes dull or a mish-mash that didn’t work great together, but this can be easily overlooked. Most of the costumes for this production were probably taken from several different wardrobes. Even one of our lecturers said she noticed one of her own designs on stage!

Over all, a great play with a well chosen cast. The productions leaves The Lyceum on Saturday so I recommend catching it before it’s gone, or keep an eye out for it elsewhere. If you’re looking for something a little fresh and different than your typical love story, Tipping The Velvet is for you.