Review: Slippery When Wet (Barons Court Theatre)
Review by Rosie Holmes
“I didn’t expect Love to show up at my dreary new job.” This is how Slippery When Wet begins, with an unnamed female character describing her first meeting with Love, capital L, the object of her affections. Not since Dolly Alderton’s bestselling book, Everything I Know About Love, has a story captured so exactly, just what it is like to be a young woman in modern day society in such an amusing way. From first waxes, drunken kisses and the inexplicable anxiety of messaging a boy, this is a show that was quite literally a laugh a minute.
Slippery When Wet, playing at the Baron’s Court Theatre, follows a young woman, an aspiring actor, who has returned from the city to her home town. The hour-long, one-woman show takes us through the ups and downs of our main character’s blossoming romance (or not) with Love, who she meets at her dreary supermarket cleaning job. We follow her through drunken nights out, debriefs with her friends, and are told her innermost thoughts… or are we? As the show progresses we see more and more that this story isn’t just about her crush, and maybe she is not being completely honest with herself or the audience about how she truly feels about where her life is going.
Leanne Devlin is both the writer and performer of Slippery When Wet, and to put it simply, she excels at both. Performing in a basement theatre, her wit and perfectly timed one-liners light up the room, her script is fast paced and full of so many chuckle inducing one-liners I struggled to note them down. Devlin’s key success here is the relatability in her writing. There are aspects of the show that, maybe a little embarrassingly, are rather too reflective of my own actions a few years ago as a young, freshly graduated, single woman. Our protagonist’s whole mood is centred around whether Love has replied to her Snapchat, and nights out are seen purely as an opportunity to dress to impress Love, and maybe grab a kiss under the influence of many vodkas.
It is Devlin’s sharp quips where she is at her strongest, but there are more sombre and revelatory moments that come later in the show. These moments are essential to the story and our understanding of Devlin’s character, and I do wish that they had been expanded on to pack more of an emotional punch. It is clear that Devlin has a knack for writing relatable characters and this is something that could definitely be developed further in regards to the more serious aspects of the story, such as the inner conflict and fear of rejection that her character faces.
Direction by Emma Copland is incredibly creative, particularly as a one-woman show in a very small space could become extremely static. However, due to Copland’s dynamic direction and Devlin’s total commitment to her direction, there is nothing static about this performance. Within the short runtime we see Devlin’s character curled up in the foetal position, sliding around on a bucket with wheels and leaping across the stage with excitement. With no set and only a mop, bucket and rubber gloves as props, it is surprising how inventive Copland’s direction is. A rubber glove is personified as Love throughout, a mop bucket even acts as toilet, the mop itself becomes her friends as she dances around a nightclub with them. There are also some clever but subtle lighting choices used throughout. The lights brighten when she receives a reply from Love and a flicker of light happens when they appear to be flirting.
Slippery when wet is an entertaining insight into the life of a young woman, that showcases writer and performer Leanne Devlin’s natural talent for comedic writing and acting. While I’m sure Devlin’s witty societal observations will appeal to many, there is no doubt young women in the audience will laugh the loudest as we see her struggle through an all-consuming crush and the highs and lows of young adulthood. Leanne Devlin is definitely one to watch and I sincerely hope this show has a life beyond its current London run.
Slippery When Wet plays at Barons Court Theatre until 2nd September 2023. Tickets available here https://www.baronscourttheatre.com/slippery-when-wet
Photos by Gavin Peden