I Wish I Had A Moustache – Contact (review)

12 May

Keisha Thompson: I Wish I Had A Moustache

Keisha Thompson: I Wish I Had A Moustache

Keisha Thompson’s one-woman show is a coming of age story that explores beauty, gender anxieties and the taboo of body hair. Can you be a modern day feminist and also feel the immemorial need to shave your legs?

Performance poet Thompson takes the audience on a comic, though sometimes disturbing, journey to find out if she has a problem with her gender, her culture or just herself.

The homemade production design fits the piece perfectly, and helps to tell the story. I love the bedroom setting in which individual curtains covered with posters, badges or flyers are drawn back to show which part of her life Thompson’s depicting in each section. To one side there’s a toilet, and we’re in the family bathroom where a nine-year-old Thompson embarks on a lifelong quest to try out all the various forms of hair removal: from razors to wax strips, Immac to epilators. (I can’t even write that word without flinching. Ow.) There’s even a ‘Play Your Cards Right’ style game show sequence, complete with board and cheesey host (one of the many characters Thompson comfortably and comically takes on).

As well as a journey through her life, Thompson takes the audience on a bit of a history tour, looking at ideals of women’s beauty in different eras and places (there’s even a retro Next Top MOdel clip in which a young woman is heartily chastised for not shaving her armpits). But as well, there’s recognition of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), a condition which as well as meaning some women suffer from very heavy hirsutism, also affects fertility.

And those memories, are one way in which Thompson particularly appeals to her audience. There are howls or recognition here, whether you’ve got a Mum the same, or a ‘frenemy’ at school (you know the one: her idea of making you helping you involves making you feel like utter shit as you sit in the shadow of her mature perfection); whether you’ve ever shredded your ankles on a semi-blunt Bic, or you just wanted to feel like you fit in with everybody.

You get that recognition in shows about friendships, relationships, and growing up – and I Wish I Had a Moustache covers all those, it just couches it in terms of hair removal. That’s not an easy subject to address, and it’s certainly not one likely to fill book shelves or cinemas across the land. But it finds a happy home in a theatre. (Very happy: both performances sell out). It fits. Particularly as part of the Flying Solo Festival which celebrates solo performers, and at Contact which seems to champion individuality throughout the year. Thompson’s clever and considered brand of confessional, intimate storytelling, punctuated with brutal honesty and lyrical poetry is right at home in live performance.

Reviewed 5 May 2015

@keke_thom / iwishihadamoustacheuk.tumblr.com

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