Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Rachel Lincoln brings her one woman show “Lie Back and Think of England” to C Nova. This collaborative piece, directed by Vanessa Mecke and produced by Anna Beecher, embraces the art of physical theatre by creating a surreal comedy set in a sex education class. Lincoln uses her unique comedic approach to bring this eccentric performance to life.
The piece starts in darkness but for an inflated lit condom, to introduce to the concept of how we came to be as a species. The stage brightens and we are in a classroom with a tall, striking, dark haired woman who appears clad in a long blue satin gown. Her hair is piled high on her head with a mortar board perched on top, like a bird in a nest.
She draws our attention to a notice informing us that, due to staff illness, she is our class’s temporary teacher – Ms. Got Told. Her seemingly endless legs stretch around the classroom as she familiarises herself with her surroundings and unpacks her belongings. Her awkward, angular and gawky movements match her shy personality, like a new-born foal finding its feet. The subject she must teach is unknown to her and she raises a flipchart to reveal today’s lesson – sex education. Her face reveals at first horror and embarrassment, and then she draws herself up to her full height preparing to rise to the challenge.
What follows is a visual step by step guide to every aspect of sexual education. Beginning with sexual intercourse, she throws herself into multiple roles to depict the act of two people who meet and arrange a date. With the date successful arranged, she becomes a young giggling female telling her girlfriends about a boy she’s met, and shows that nervous excitement as she takes his phone call. In an instance she shows the other side of the story – changing into the young boy, boasting to his peers and arranging the date. The date leads to the inevitable unsophisticated fumbling of aroused youth, before eventually managing to join their bodies together in heightened passion.
Looking like a youthful Joyce Grenfell, Rachel Lincoln’s elastic physicality is obvious from the moment she appears on the stage. She communicates with that comic gobbledygook – half guttural sound and half nearly recognisable words – that compliment her body’s narrative as she reduces her audience to a giggling mass. Her face is capable of showing several emotions simultaneously, and as each new flipchart page surprises her with another topic, you can almost read her mind. Her control of her tongue when mimicking kissing has to be seen to be believed, and she cleverly covers the subjects of porn, puberty and her own first sexual experience, delivering a tightly timed, and at times fairly complicated performance.
Remarkably, Lincoln chooses to speak to the audience near the end of the performance and this has a startling effect. Her beautifully crisp clear English accent delivers an important revelation in the storyline. She then bursts into song before returning to her first speech idiom. I personally would have rather she had kept her speaking voice (lovely as it is) secret, because it was such a powerful one. It’s a simple set of a flipboard chart and teachers desk, with Lincoln finding an inventive way of using her simple props as erotic puppetry to imaginative effect at strategic moments.
There’s even a clever piece of origami in here. She’s got the entire audience under her control and she’s fearless when moving amongst them for assistance. In this rapid 55 minutes we are all laughing uncontrollably with her. Rachel Lincoln’s decadent piece is a firm tongue-in-cheek piece of theatre.