Directed by Jemma Gross
Pros: Stand out performances and well-written dialogue that really hits home.
Cons: I would have liked a little more detail on the story of their family, but it’s a really minor quibble considering the packed content of the relatively short play.
Our Verdict: A strong production that expertly carries you through highs, lows, laughter and tears.
|Credit: Andy Colbourne
is a newcomer to the London theatre scene: it first opened its doors in May 2013. This was my first visit and I was curious to see the venue. It was a hot summer evening and the street entrance had thrown open the windows and doors in welcome. You immediately step into the bar/café foyer which was light, airy and open plan with stairs at the rear leading to the two performance spaces (Park 200 and Park 90) and a further upper level bar. For those who would be dashing straight from work they serve soups and sandwiches which looked fresh and tasty.We were in the smaller Park 90 (seating capacity, yes you guessed, 90). Seating was in tiered rows but all on one level (ie. no circle/balcony) and wrapped around three sides of the stage floor. The arrangement allowed for an up close and personal performance which I imagine must be tough for the actors.
The play revolves around a couple and the history of their relationship. The setting is vague but roughly around 1940s New Zealand. Scenery is minimal and suggestive of an outdoor space in the country. The only props are a tin bath surrounded by wild flowers and a couple of tin pails.
We are brought into the play by a series of old photographs projected onto the rear wall showing the two characters through the passage of time. It’s a seemingly gently introduction but as soon as the images fade away we are thrust straight into the guts of a passionate and turbulent relationship. It’s a physical and shocking start to a rollercoaster hour of memories and confessions. The writing constantly changes gear; you relax into a romantic interlude but are then flung headlong into an angry maelstrom which may in turn be cut short by a playful or humorous comment.
Angela Bull (Elizabeth) and John Schumacher (Tom) both give equally intense performances. We are shown a love that runs the full gamut from gentle and endearing to violent and painful. The space brings the audience and actors so close that you could reach out and touch them. This proximity means there’s nowhere for an actor to hide. We can see the communication in their eye contact and it is utterly convincing. Their bond is conveyed as much in their body language as their words.
This rollercoaster ride is contained in a little over an hour. It’s an astonishing feat to carry an audience so far in such a short space of time. That said, at around 45 minutes in, I felt the need to know where the story was leading and became a little frustrated, though I didn’t have long to wait before the direction became apparent.
Despite reading the theatre publicity blurb before attending it didn’t prepare me for the experience. Expecting sentimentality I had thought I may leave in tears. I didn’t cry but I was amazed at the range of emotions that were provoked, especially in the knife scene which is completely gripping. After heartfelt applause at the end I felt the audience left the space almost in a shocked silence; still assimilating what they had just witnessed.
On a practical note the theatre wasn’t air conditioned and in the current heat wave it became very warm. I had carried an old fashioned fan with me but refrained from using it as I was concerned the batting movement may have distracted the actors. (You can take drinks in but only in plastic glasses).
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Skin Tight runs at Park Theatre until 11th August 2013.