Lip Service Best Bits – New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich

Comedy partnerships that last a quarter of a century are few and far between but, for Sue Ryding and Maggie Fox, their comedic duo Lip Service is still going strong after 25 years.

Lip Service Best Bits, a celebration of some of their finest shows is the theatrical equivalent of a TV clip show, quickfire and varied. For those new to Lip Service, it may be confusing but, for the devoted fans – and there were many of those in the audience – it’s a warm homage to some of the quickest wits currently on stage.

The success of Lip Service is their ability to take familiar genres and give them their own, slightly eccentric, comic twist. Arthurian legend, the Brontes, Hammer Horror, Sherlock Holmes, and Richard and Judy are all fair game for some affectionate leg pulling.

It’s often in the small detail that the true comedic gold is mined and there are some beautifully observed moments here; a mini Wuthering Heights, a running joke about the missing Bronte sister and, of course, dancing daffodils.

The fragmented nature of this highlights format could prove difficult in scene transition but Lip Service make good use of video to give a taster of their back catalogue. A simple revolving set also provides plenty of comic potential. Ryding and Fox revel in their over the top characters and their 25 year experience of comic timing shows.

Some pieces work better than others in this format; excerpts from the Bronte-inspired Withering Looks and the Sherlock Holmes spoof Move Over Moriarty work better than the short scene from Very Little Women. A show such as this is, by it’s very nature, reflective but would benefit from more narrative to tell this history of the duo and the background to the shows.
The format of the show results in some scenes being mere tasters and can leave a sense of frustration of not seeing the full piece, but this is unavoidable in a show such as this. Given their large back catalogue of work it must be difficult to know what to include and what to leave out.

Based on this showing, Lip Service show no signs of flagging and, even after 25 years, are still able to reduce an audience to helpless laughter. On a cold grey September Tuesday evening, you can’t get a better compliment than that.

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