Split Britches, Double Agency

Review in Issue 13-3 | Autumn 2001

This double-bill by the legendary Anglo-American company Split Britches was perfectly placed in this former music-hall and variety venue. Miss Risque, a new work, is billed as ‘a story of secrets and showgirls’. As the audience arrives, the glorious Lois Weaver is in place, taking up most of the stage; her snow-white dress flowing over tiered platforms, a headdress adding to the height so that she presides over the audience, a larger than life Liberty Belle. Enter Peggy Shaw, private dick and stage-door johnny on a journey from awestruck Peeping Tom to adoring dance partner.

Miss Risque both subverts and celebrates the vaudeville tradition. The show is a feast of female drag – the powdered and permed showgirl and her besuited and moustachioed beau both artificial constructs, yet both true and powerful representations of aspects of womanhood.

It’s a small house and we’ve lived in it always is an established part of the company’s repertoire; a play in word, song and movement. Two lonesome lovers act out the girl-boy (or girl-girl) tease and truculence of a married life. Lois Weaver maps the feminine, Peggy Shaw pulls off an extraordinary portrait of masculinity – her ‘butch’ is not a stereotypical machismo but the nervy, exasperated, pleading masculinity of the boy man who tries to do what his woman wants but so often gets it wrong.

Having worked together for over twenty years, theirs is a stage partnership of a rare calibre – together they spark and fizz. Split Britches are political in their very existence, but eschew agit-prop to create theatre that is multi-faceted, funny and beautiful.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jun 2001

This article in the magazine

Issue 13-3
p. 23