Your reviewer is 35 years old. We mention this not because we’re proud of it or anything – surviving to your mid-thirties being less of an achievement these days than, say, the 14th century – but because we were sat in the Ovalhouse Theatre bar before the show last night, and we felt old. Just, so old. The music was 80s, and not even famous 80s, but The Proclaimers and Midge Ure (and not even famous Proclaimers and Midge Ure, no; Letter from America and If I Was). And we looked around at our fellow patrons and realised we were probably the only ones who could remember this stuff first time around. Hell, we were quite probably the only ones allowed to drink legally.
Turns out this was all relevant. The Ovalhouse is celebrating its 50th birthday and has commissioned new plays about each decade it’s seen. Rachel Mars and nat tarrab got the 1980s; Rachel wasn’t even alive when it began and nat only came of voting age as it ended. Most of our collective memory of the decade is filtered through the prism of childhood and what we can look up on Google. It wasn’t all ra-ra skirts and legwarmers and Rubik’s Cubes and Madonna; it was also Section 28 and fear and the Belgrano and money grubbing, all out for yourself commercialisation.
Mars.tarrab have come up with an ingenious way to blend all this together. They’ve taken the speeches of Margaret Thatcher and lyrics from songs by female pop stars of the 80s and blended them together (leading to one inspired section which you won’t understand if you’re too young to have Elaine Page and Barbara Dickson seared into your retinas) in between breaking down the fourth wall and jumping all over it with spacehoppers. It’s not slick (they are their own sound technicians) but it is full of good ideas, genuinely terrifying guerrilla acrobatics and performed with gusto by two very likeable actors.
The Lady’s Not For Walking Like An Egyptian is on at the Ovalhouse Theatre, 52-54 Kennington Oval, SE11, at 8pm until Saturday 16 February. Tickets £10 / £6. We saw this production on a press ticket.