After the success of their first development showing at pvi collective’s sold out KISS club in 2019, Daley King returns to PICA with their compelling ode to self-empowerment Lipstuck, and invites us on a journey across space, time, and social standing to better understand and embrace one of the world’s most celebrated and divisive modes of painting the body.


Before an intimately on-the-round audience, with Laura Heffernan’s gorgeous but simple set design reminiscent of both a cosy living room and a vibrant botanical lab, King extends a warm hand to all who enter their space of stories. With their amicable and comically matter-of-fact demeanour and multiple opportunities for consensual participation throughout the show, King shows a genuine respect and appreciation for their audience and all who may be present therein, and we are cordially eased into feeling right at home with them.


But one shouldn’t be too distracted by the affable surface of the show, as this is not your ordinary lipstick play. Far from the two-dimensional narratives akin to a lot of white feminist theatre of today wherein cis white womanhood is the centre from which all else deviates, Lipstuck is where you will find a story that spans all corners of society and the globe. From sex work to migration, Mesopotamia to Aotearoa, and class divide to WWII, King’s thoroughly researched script begins here with the Noongar practice of body painting and leaves no stone unturned as they trace the highs and lows of the lipstick legend from its many eclectic origins, to the multifaceted cosmetic and cultural device we know today, and to King’s own connections to tā moko and genderqueer self-expression.


With a dire underrepresentation of voices from the margins in our local scene, it is a rare and important occasion when someone puts history and body politics onstage in a way which does not forgive nor defend nationalism, colonialism, or patriotism as they deeply impact histories and bodies of all kinds to this day. People living beyond the gender binary and Eurocentric white supremacist frameworks of identity and social standing can never escape our social burdens, regardless of what histories and bodies are present on the stage at any time, and regardless of the ways cis and white theatre makers may exclude or exotify us  however they like and be empowered to get away with it under the whiteness of the industry.


But out of a deep commitment to bring all manner of stories to the stage, Lipstuck erodes the elitist and unnecessary bridges between performer and audience with a loving invitation to deconstruct our understandings of whose stories matter and why and who gets to tell them. In no other place this Fringe will you see a straight man volunteer to amplify the voice of a visibly queer person and their trauma, or a white woman warmly amplify the voice of a Pashtun feminist, in a room where everyone is truly welcome and visible. Rather than speaking truth to power, Lipstuck speaks truth to community, with the same vitality and multiplicity one can expect to see from the middle of the Murray Street mall. King critiques the status quo from beyond it, and speaks to those within it from a place of welcoming, joy, and determination. Travelling together “across all binaries”, Lipstuck is a moving and gently provocative call to comfort and to confront. It is a great challenge to make a work about all sides of society, for all sides of society, while also speaking to individual experiences. But through the embodiment of social responsibility and the lovingly relentless humanising of the dehumanised, King asserts a theatre for all: a class and environmentally conscious feminism for the 99%, and a jubilant and inclusive celebration of everyone’s right to embrace ourselves.


4.5 mortar and pestles out of 5.


Words by Patrick Gunasekera

Patrick Gunasekera is the brown bombshell Perth needs and doesn’t deserve, and a queercrip Sinhala interdisciplinary artist causing trouble across writing, visual media and performance.


Lipstuck is on at the PICA performance space from 28th January to 1st February. Tickets are $26 and you can get them here.


Image by Nicolee Fox


Woodside Petroleum is a principal sponsor of FRINGE WORLD Festival. Pelican has been a long-time supporter of the Festival, and will continue to show its support. However, the Magazine feels it is unethical for Woodside Petroleum to remain a principal sponsor of FRINGE WORLD, given the current climate emergency, and Woodside’s ongoing contribution to climate change.


Other Festivals have demonstrated that ethical sources of funding are possible – you can read more, and sign the petition, here: // #fossilfreefringe #fossilfreearts // Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action

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