Part of the ongoing RADA Festival, the curiously titled Lava Lamps, written and performed by Imogen Hudson-Clayton, is a dissection of modern womanhood in all its chaotic glory. Working her way through three different female characters, the play darts around like a schizophrenic ménage-a-trois, Hudson-Clayton shifting from one to the other at random intervals. Though in their own ways unique, each story bleeds into one another, giving an anarchic and often jarringly comedic sense of what it is to be a modern woman.
One a hopeless lover, one a hardnosed worker, one a struggling mother. All of them a woman with a story to tell. Each of the three vignettes that Hudson-Clayton embodies constitutes a stock, almost unoriginal trope of femininity. We’ve seen these platitudes before. The lover, locked in an undulating and absurd affair with a married man named George, rocks drunkenly to and fro from unadulterated lust to implosions of despair. The worker, a merciless and stony faced specimen, having undergone a pragmatic abortion lest it distract her from her careerist ladder climbing. The mother, racked with love for her child and anxiety about her proficiency as a mother.
And yet, Lava Lamps, coupled with a witty script and a stellar central performance, breathes new and enlightening life into these caricatures. It has a relentlessly modern feel to it, invoking new preoccupations such as Tinder and the modern penchant for yoga, which also renders a somewhat satirical feel. Playing with comedic sensibilities, the play inspires a number of cleverly placed laughs, working alongside the pathos of the three characters. It may not sound like a play that deals with extramarital love, ill-fated child care and breast cancer would have many room for jokes, yet they fit in quite snuggly amongst the modern mess of our protagonists’ lives.
Hudson-Clayton gives a spirited and sterling performance, flitting across the stage as she moves from one persona to the next. She is particularly convincing as the somewhat odious worker, her use of facial expressions and rigid posture to convey her character’s similarly rigid disposition being highly effective. In the denouement, when all the characters converge at coffee shop, the speed at which she snaps back from one to the other is impressive and makes for an entertaining mishmash of tension and hilarity.
A fleeting injection of fun and seriousness, Lava Lamps is a solo performance play with a difference. A thoroughly convincing display of an actor’s versatility.
Lava Lamps played as part of the RADA Festival. For more information, see the RADA website.