A 45 minute monologue/character study, this is a semi-autobiographical show from new theatre company Wipe Your Feet.
After enthusiastic off-screen applause (remember that, performers and audiences?), we meet drag queen Rose, and the young man behind the make-up (Lewis Pickles, co-writer with director Lauren Tranter).
As he removes the trappings of Rose – wig, eyelashes, nails, clothing, make-up – our main character chats about how he has been subsumed by his alter ego. “I have to take credit for the chaos I’ve created”, he muses, as the vulnerability that has “nothing to do with Rose” comes through.
We are in a small bathroom/dressing area backstage in a venue. Mirrors, posters, a loo, a suitcase. As Rose is slowly removed and packed away, we hear about family, friendships, a boyfriend.
Pitted with innuendo, the story of this snapshot in time evolves. This is a peak into the confessional, a moment where we overhear the ripples and wobbles behind the overconfident Rose (“six feet seven in heels – she’s bloody scary!”).
Rose is definitely larger than life: the face make-up made me think of the late Leigh Bowery, all excessive paint and personality. As the trappings of a club act are stripped back, Rose diminishes in size and power.
There are the rituals of postshow we are seeing here. A choker removed to unrestrict the neck. A lipstick almost down to the end which sparks a memory of a sticky club floor. The combing out of a wig.
As the young man chats to us, we feel the hold his creation has over him. She’s “like a suitcase you open after a long flight, everything just bursts out.” He doesn’t need her, necessarily, but he holds on to items that represent her.
Suitcase Under The Stairs feels like a first act of a larger story. There are moments where it would have been interesting to properly meet Rose in her on-stage persona; or to see outside of the bathroom door. There are tantalising mentions of mum and other relations which suggest pivotal support.
Pickles is a versatile performer who cleverly highlights his character’s emotional state at each moment of this piece. I might crop out the black screen bits, which come across oddly on Zoom, and replace with more reflective moments, but this is a great debut piece from a new young company.
Suitcase Under The Stairs streamed via Greenwich Theatre on 11-12 February on a pay what you feel basis. To find out more about Wipe Your Feet visit their website.