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Review: Legs Up

I don’t like waxing – I tried it exactly once. I don’t like the feeling of wax on my skin, or the shock of it all being pulled off, and I really don’t like the idea of someone else doing it and I just have sort of awkward contradictory feelings about my body and hair removal in general. So when I want longer-term hair removal I epilate, because then I’m in control of the pain or something? Loulou Sloss, the writer/director of People You Know’s latest production Legs Up, who I interviewed along with fellow director Piper Richardson, would disapprove of me for this: she says ‘I tell everybody they should get Brazilian waxed, not because I would like a hairless world, but because I think it’s very important to embarrass yourself by spreading yourself in front of a stranger’. I agree with this in theory, but I am unfortunately a coward, and am also perfectly capable of embarrassing myself in front of strangers with my underwear on.

I wrote ‘underwear’ instead of ‘pants’ just then because I remembered that Americans exist and might have different opinions about the meaning of ‘pants’ – I don’t normally have to think about this stuff when writing theatre reviews, but this play is full of things almost unheard of in the St Andrews theatre scene, such as American accents – even American characters! – and Venmo, which is a very difficult concept for anyone raised this side of the Atlantic to understand. Piper diplomatically goes over the various sensible reasons why so many old plays about posh white straight English men get put on here, then says ‘Americans are a quarter of the people here – there are a lot of Americans involved in theatre who want our voices and perspectives heard just because we want to say things and make art. And I would hope that people enjoy having a different perspective. I really think specificity is an art: the more personal and detailed you get, the more universal things actually become. It’s like the Taylor Swift school of songwriting – you can throw things in about a red scarf and everybody has a red scarf in their brain’. I think it’s slightly crazy that she needs to defend just the idea of Americans in theatre like this. I’ve heard this play pointed to (by a good friend of mine but he doesn’t always read these reviews fingers crossed) as an example of how the theatre scene is actually diverse and doesn’t really need to change because look here’s an American play by an American writer just like how all the other plays are English plays and that’s fine.

Anyway that’s all a bit too dreary to fit the blog style guidelines, which strongly emphasise ‘yassified’, or to really fit with the play. Loulou explains ‘comedy is the only thing’ and ‘I think that people are really serious here, and I hope that my play shows that people can write about serious things in a funny way and be respected, which I hope we are, and you don’t have to be dramatic to be smart’. There is more funny here than serious, but the funny is very fast-paced and clever and designed to make you feel clever if you get the references, and of course is also revealing about all the characters and their thoughts and differences etc. Loulou says to ‘call 999 for if you’re laughing so hard that your stomach explodes, or your spleen, – everybody’s going to leave with rock-hard abs because they’re just gonna be laughing and peeing’; according to Piper they were ‘going to turn it down but then we found out that ambulances in the UK are free’. There were some extremely funny moments, but I unfortunately escaped hospitalisation and still have to write this review and explain any of what’s going on in this play. Piper summarises it: ‘there have been a lot of excellent shows that are farces on posh people, and this is a farce on American posh people’. It’s about three women getting Brazilian waxes. There’s Trish, played by Daisy Paterson, who is so busy on her phone defending her right-wing bastard boss – ‘are the interns working on a deepfake apology video’ – that she can’t take her clothes off by herself and treats the whole business of waxing completely impersonally, but then quits and starts working for a environmental organisation and still says ridiculous marketing things but at least she’s not defending rape, and she ditches the skirt suit and grows a bit as a person. Nicole Sellew’s Jenny does not really grow as a person. She’s recently divorced and trying to date and doesn’t have a great time of it and her extremely loud exclamations of pain when getting waxed sync up perfectly with her tales of woe, and in the end she gets a ‘vagina rejuvenation surgery’. Sofia Hattiangadi plays Sam, who gets waxed for the first time and is an NYU student very concerned with thinking the right things and has an awful boyfriend who doesn’t appreciate the Barbie movie or ‘anti-men rhetoric’ in media, but luckily eventually gets a Barbie shirt (kudos to Sofie Van Natta I love all the costumes in this show) and a girlfriend, which is an unbelievable win, even if she still tries too hard to fit other people’s ideas. She’s my favourite, and it’s almost not only because she’s a rare non-straight character on a St Andrews stage. 

All these women are waxed by Scarlett Tew’s redoubtable Regina, who remains on stage throughout, and who Loulou promises is ‘very different’ from her waxer in New York who is also ‘Romanian and moved to New York and called Regina’. The last 4 letters of her name are eminently punnable. She walks in a very specific way with her arms held up in front of her, struggles to put on plastic gloves (as do we all god I have so much trauma with plastic gloves), has her glasses on a string (enabling much dramatic glasses-lifting), thanks Siri very sincerely and politely, and also reads Infinite Jest. She’s a little bit hard to place, which is the point, because she is providing a service to the other women and even though she hugs Jenny and gives advice to Sam she maintains a distance, with her repeated abrupt ‘legs up’ and the always equally abrupt ends of the sessions. Loulou explains ‘that there’s a lot of art about the conversations you have with a hairdresser or a nail salon person or a barber, because it’s sort of a therapy that also involves self-image, and I think that waxing is another level, because you’re sharing and you’re also sharing: you’re sharing with your words and you’re sharing with your body and it’s something where you can’t see what they’re doing as they’re doing it but they can see and you’re just talking and talking’ – one of the big ideas of the play is that it should ‘help people reconsider the way that they treat the people who are doing services for them’. Piper elaborates, talking about ‘the external lives of people that you only ever see in one really specific context or situation, be it your barista, your professor – or the person who always sits across from me in the fourth floor of the library – but who you never talk to, the idea that we all have lives outside of these rooms that we’re in, that we continue to live once we leave’. Regina also alludes to these ideas herself, in a slightly awkward monologue at the end giving a little more insight into her. 

I really like the choice of where this play was staged – the Bell Pettigrew Museum, which I’d never been in before but wow what a place, even if my friend almost missed the play because she couldn’t find it. Apparently ‘the Bell Pettigrew Museum immediately came to mind’ for Loulou ‘because of how perfectly manicured all of the animals are, all these animals have been stuffed and groomed for other people’s consumption, and also because it’s an uncomfortable environment’, like a wax bar inevitably is. And also because of the silly taxidermied animals: ‘if nobody laughs at the jokes in the play at least they’ll laugh at the idea that these animals are petrified looking into the nether regions of these eccentric New York women’. The museum is made semi-comfortable, with nice carpets to sit on, but there’re still a bunch of dead animals all around and they have whale foetuses in jars! Whale foetuses in jars. Ami Melville and Eleanor Frank’s set is also great, with some brilliantly awful posters on the wall, one of which advertises a ‘vajacial’.

So basically I think this is just a good fun play about interesting people, which you can’t go buy a ticket for because they sold out almost immediately. Loulou says ‘there are very few things that are more satisfying to me than walking into a room and thinking ‘nobody knows that I have a perfectly manicured pussy right now’. I can’t really relate but like I respect that. This play is a lot

more about comedy than philosophising about waxing or whatever, and that’s not a bad thing and honestly what a great setting and concept for a play. Piper hopes that based on the play ‘people feel inspired to write and to put up their own things and to see that there is real support and enthusiasm within St Andrews to put on more student-written younger contemporary shows about things

people care about’. I love and appreciate older English plays about misogynist men more than a lot of people, but I need more gay stuff to review otherwise it becomes pretty hard to justify doing these reviews for the Gay Saint. This is a student-written play and briefly mentions gayness so I feel really inspired to support Piper. This Easter don’t think about Jesus or whatever think about writing a gay play. It’s unbelievable how straight this theatre scene is – roll away the stone and resurrect the divinely-ordained dominance of gay people over drama, or some other similarly forced metaphor.


other erin


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