Tipping The Velvet is one of the most iconic and most well-known pieces of queer media out there.
Set in 1887 in Victorian England, the debut novel by Sarah Waters shows the life of a young woman named Nancy “Nan” Astley as she falls in love with a ‘male impersonator’ named Kitty Butler. Nan follows Kitty to London for hijinks and adventures as the two women get by.
Compared to the works of Charles Dickens, Tipping The Velvet was praised for the way that it explored what it would have been like to be a same-sex couple in Victorian England (Waters was writing her PhD dissertation on gay and lesbian historical fiction at the time) and for the way it looked at themes of gender, sexism and classism, issues which would have been prevalent during their era.
The novel also broke ground when it was adapted into a BBC series in 2002, with Waters having been surprised that the BBC chose to adapt the book due to sexual content within it.
Following that three-part series (which was also praised, despite initial outrage from some) and a stage adaptation in 2009, Tipping The Velvet will once again be presented to audiences, this time at the Lyric Hammersmith (London) starting in September.
This particular stage adaptation has been written Laura Wade and directed by Lyndsey Turner. Having been in the works for four years, it reportedly stays true to the book, with Sarah Waters having worked closely with Wade on the script.
Previous fans of the book (or the TV show) should feel that Sally Messham (as Nancy) and Laura Rogers (as Kitty) stick closely to the original, then, and audiences shouldn’t expect any Twilight ‘spider monkey’ type of diversions from the original work.
Also good news is that Tipping The Velvet‘s artistic director Sean Holmes also realises the significance of the show, telling The Guardian that “what’s so brilliant about the novel is it is such an upfront, unapologetic celebration of sexuality that just happens to be between two women.
Obviously it’s set at a time when that’s frowned upon but it’s also just really about the journey to love and sexual discovery and the massive, formative journey that applies to everyone, whatever your sexuality is, and yet you never see portrayed between gay women.”
Tipping The Velvet will run from September 18 to October 24 at the Lyric Hammersmith. After the Lyric Hammersmith, Tipping The Velvet will be on at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh.