Ensemble Theatre’s latest offering, Lip Service, takes you back to the 1950s makeup boom. Helena Rubenstein (played by Amanda Muggleton) is at the height of her cosmetic empire. Needing more security in her life, she hires bodyguard Patrick O’Higgins (played by Tim Draxl), an Irish war veteran desperately seeking a new job. Based on a true story, the play delves into the life of Rubenstein and her successes and hardships in being one of the richest women of her time.
Madame Helena, as she likes to be called, is as eccentric as she can be. She speaks broken English, gets sayings twisted, and is career-obsessed. She is the self-obsessed, narcissistic, but adorable main character. Patrick is Madame’s sidekick, who gets talked down to a lot because of his funny accent and loyalty to his boss. And Elizabeth Arden (Linden Wilkinson) is the snobby villain who tries to cause chaos for the main character at every turn.
Madame realises she’s in a predicament. Her empire is based on the encouragement of women who needed the tools and confidence to work in a male-dominant society, to which feminists discourage by pointing out the objectivity and artificiality of makeup.
The stage had a very grandiose setup. Everything seemed to be well thought out and executed very flawlessly through the cast and the crew. The interludes were appropriate to the play’s era and setting. Lip Service is a hearty and relatable play.
The three actors had very good chemistry all throughout. You get fond of the characters and the occasional comedic relief. Draxl is the hunk of the play, his brashness and dashing presence is palpable.
The Ensemble Theatre is probably my favourite venue right now, always showcasing very high productions — especially this year. You get a raw and refreshing taste of local theatre, right on the edge of Sydney Harbour.
Kevin Rodrigueza is a 21-year-old Sydney local who enjoys craft beer, theatre and all things culture. Follow his adventures at @kevinr___.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Ensemble theatre.
Image credit: Prudence Upton.