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Theatre Review: Tipping the Velvet @ Italia Conti


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Each year the Italia Conti Ensemble form a production at the end of their second year which they then take to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This year, Italia Conti’s second year students bring Laura Wade’s Tipping the Velvet; a story of sexuality, heartbreak and woman’s suffrage.

We are introduced to the tale of Nancy Astley (Anna McKelvie), an oyster girl from small town Whitstable who spends here evenings at The Palace Theatre trying to gain the attention, and all important rose, from star Kitty Butler (Megan Fleet). What follows is a journey of self-discovery from tragic relationships, to the bright and seedy lights of Soho, to understanding ‘The Woman Question’.

Italia Conti are the first company to bring the play to the Fringe and it’s set not to disappoint. The ensemble are slick and work with movement, live music, and storytelling to bring together a performance bursting with excitement.

Anna McKelvie leads the cast playing Nancy Astley. She is vibrant and flows from comedic to emotive with ease, displaying a full connection with the character and allowing the audience to trust in her and get on side. Beside her we have Megan Fleet as the alluing Kitty Butler. Another stella performance from a young actress, playing with sincerity and utter showmanship; not only a talent actress but a great singer too.

The women in the cast drive the play with other stand out performances from Rebecca-Scott Livingstone as activist Florence Banner and Rosie Sharp as the sultry and domineering Diana Leathaby.

However, the brilliance of the production lies within the ensemble work. Their use of physical theatre, voice and stagecraft ensure the play is fast paced and engaging throughout. At no point does the energy drop in the space and they had the audience in the palm of their hand from the very start.

A play set in 1895 displays issues that are just as relevant today, the company tackle this with empathy and honesty and it’s really a joy to watch.

Italia Conti Ensemble will perform Tipping the Velvet and their other show The Dark Philosophers at The Space (Niddry Street) from 6th – 11th August at 1.30pm and 3pm.

This article is part of our coverage of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Click here to read other articles written by our contributors. 
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