The Adventures of the Bearded Lady at the Vaults
Theodora van der Beek brings her wildly eccentric show to Lambeth North, seeking to challenge norms of power, privilege and the gender binary. With her quirky story concept and punk high-octane performance style, this is an outlandish piece that does not easily fit into categories.
The narrative follows a young woman who was born with a “full head of hair” on her chin, as she recounts the fame that follows both mother and daughter. After losing her much-adored beard, she decides to join the circus visiting her town. A red and white sheet hangs from the ceiling, depicting big tops most typically found in revels, while Bear is not a giant stuffed animal as one might expect, but a pair of faux paws dangling from a clothes hanger. Van der Beek is dressed in a bright canary-yellow dress, similar to Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and declares, “I have a dream that one day we’ll all be bearded.” Lady soon falls head over heels in love with Bear, and what ensues is an entertaining bestiality scene of raunchy sensibility.
Lady’s gender changes over time, so that we see her as a sailor dressed like a man you’d find in a Jean Paul Gaultier perfume ad, then transforming into various females to be painted by Picasso, including Rose from the film Titanic and Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. These modifications evoke the many conversions that Virginia Woolf explores through her character Orlando in the eponymous novel.
The theatre-maker has oodles of energy as she sings triumphantly, cracks an egg, pastes hair on her chin with its yolk and licks the leg of a chair, but the show feels like a jumble of different performance styles that, though intentional, doesn’t always work. Nonetheless, Van der Beek is a very gifted writer, and her script fares well as a standalone text, which is arguably funnier.
The Adventures of the Bearded Lady is at the Vaults from 13th March until 1st January 1970. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.