/Sarah Chew’s Lipstick: A fairy tale in Modern Iran – Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre (2018)

Sarah Chew’s Lipstick: A fairy tale in Modern Iran – Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre (2018)

It would be unfair to review Lipstick: A fairy tale in Modern Iran, after all, it is a scratch performance based on the experiences of Sarah Chew and her visit to Tehran during the Green Uprising in 2009. At the Omnibus Theatre, people got to see a theatrical work in its development stages. With script in hand, Laura Dos Santos read Sarah Chew’s words and reenacted a heavy and serious topic, which was up for discussion later on in the evening. Mark, bravely performed by Nathan Kiley, added cabaret and drag aesthetic to the episodic work. Together they ruled over my attention for the evening, and I was genuinely locked in and engaged.

I have no prior background knowledge of the Middle East or Iran and yet I learnt so much last night from seeing Lipstick: A fairy tale in Modern Iran. I almost felt guilty for not knowing half of the things Sarah Chew’s words expressed with the audience. Yet Western media outlets like to hide certain information about Iran from the Western world and the Iranian government would prefer that the world didn’t know of all of the dehumanising stories and cruel personal accounts experienced by female activists in Iran. That’s why they are hidden away on online platforms, so the Iranian authorities can’t catch them — even a Google search engine wouldn’t be able to locate these stories.

Recently, it was reported that hundreds of women are actively protesting against female traditions and customs in Iran by removing their headscarf in public; a small percentage of men have followed suit. Having recently interviewed Sarah Chew on the phone, I knew that her ambition was a form of theatrical protest, but in a place: a city like London, where it is perfectly acceptable to protest peacefully and share stories of a sensitive nature.

Laura Dos Santos plays Orla in Lipstick: a fairy tale in Modern Iran.

Emotionally powerful and at times upsetting, I wished that I could do something about the situation in Iran after watching Lipstick. But that was all wishful thinking when we, those in Western world, have our own movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp to worry about. Only now, slowly and finally, are organisations beginning to accept that there is a disparity between a woman’s position compared to her fellow male colleague in the workplace which needs a radical change too; whether it’s about gender pay gaps or physical respect in the workplace. When you watch and hear stories from a scratch performance like Lipstick, you begin to see that women are struggling on a wider and severe scale; from the clothes they wear, the skin they are not covering, the people they are seen with and the potentially illegal acts they are seen doing with them, according to Iranian law.

Nathan Kelly as Mark in Lipstick: a fairy tale in Modern Iran
Nathan Kiley as Mark in Lipstick: a fairy tale in Modern Iran

There is a deep message to take home here. There are women who need a voice and a place to share their stories. The theatre is one of the many ways to share a story and we must embrace the resources we have and use it to our advantage. So long as we are not putting someone in harm’s way, we have the advantage of helping others extend their story’s footprint, on a global scale. These women shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. 

My Stealthy Freedom on Facebook: Link here.

My interview with writer and director of Lipstick, Sarah Chew. Click here.

Follow Lipstick: a fairy tale in Iran on Facebook, here

Opinion piece in the New York Times: Why women are removing their head scarfs in Iran.