Watching: Wine Lips

If you’ve ever wondered what might be going on backstage at the theatre- this is for you. Set in The Basement’s actual green room, Wine Lips reveals the under-belly of trying to ‘make it’ in an unforgiving industry. 

There’s everything you would expect to find spread across Bex Isemonger’s set- the crumpled red bull cans, cups of coffee (notice the common theme of caffeine), and an array of hair and make up miscellaneous lying in front of the mirror. Brit Travis (Chelsea McEwan Millar) unassumingly enters through the same single door we all walked through moments before, taking in the static familiarity of the place. She walks up to fix her hair and lipstick in the mirror, and the full audience is reflected back with her. It’s an intimate set up and Sam Brook’s direction makes full use of this; everything feels intensely voyeuristic. 

Brit has come to see Scotty (Nic Sampson), her ex-love and the director of the ‘Boy-lesque’ that’s playing in the next room. He’s frustrated, Brit was supposed to meet him for a drink after the show- not during, but she’s here now and they attempt to remedy the tension by cracking a bottle of wine. Then another. Followed by the bottle of spirits meant as a gift for the stage manager- but they need it more. 

As the wine flows, their tangled past is unraveled, and so are they. Brit is on the edge of stardom- she’s a flight away from her big break in Melbourne, but Scotty’s stuck right where he’s always been, and he’s tired of it. He doesn’t want to still be here years from now, older, fatter, and not an ounce more successful. Amongst all the industry quips, and jokes directed at real people and events, there’s a universal truth in this confession, and it’s a testament to Brooks’ writing.

Compromise and sacrifice are issues at the forefront, as Brit and Scotty rehash their time together. The performances are honest and the material is undoubtedly close to home. It’s painfully truthful but full of big laughs nonetheless. These moments of tension are broken by the absurdity of ‘Boy-lesque’, a reality that Amber Molloy artfully crafts with dance tracks and helicopter sounds all filtering through from the stage doors. The shows lead, Max (Geordie Holibar), is the juxtaposition to the cynicism that oozes from Brit and Scotty. He’s young and fresh, and just starting out. Max doesn’t know how tough it can get- ‘WINZ tough’- and he’s totally in awe of Brit, who hasn’t quite grasped that someone might be looking to her for advice. 

Wine Lips is an intimate examination of the intricacies of relationships, and the unfortunate reality of priorities. Which should you put first, your relationship, or your career? And how do you know which one to bank on? Fame is fickle, but people are too. 

Wine Lips plays upstairs at The Basement, twice a night, until August 30. Equal parts funny and heart wrenching, this is not to be missed. 

Get your tickets here


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