Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Skin Tight, Feb 2, 2011 ***

Skin Tight 
By Gary Henderson, SaySIX Theatre and The Groundswell Division
Where and When: fortyfivedownstairs, until February 2 to 20, 2011
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Skin Tight is a fierce, emotional short play by New Zealand playwright, Gary Henderson, depicting a couple in a passionate, violent, sexually charged relationship. It has a visceral physicality making the stage a sexy and dangerous place.

It begins with a jolt; the young couple hurl themselves bodily at each other, falling to the ground, wrestling violently and erotically in piles of discarded clothing.

The play is like a time a capsule of the relationship between Tom (Michael Whalley) and Elizabeth (Holly Shanahan). They drag up memories, make confessions, taunt and tease, attacking physically and verbally and even using knifeplay in a disturbing scene. Their passionate physicality is underscored by crackling, 1940s gramaphone music and percussive, electronic sound (Jared Lewis).

The past collides with the present and the future is dimly ominous. Henderson’s writing cunningly misdirects us to make assumptions about the couple’s relationship, circumstances and particularly about their age. They look young but slowly we discern the truth.

In this production, directed by Justin Martin with choreography by Tom Hodgson, the balance between dialogue and physicality is unstable. Whalley and Shanahan give committed, impassioned performances but their physicality feels disconnected from the dialogue. Their emotional detail is much clearer in the choreographed scenes than the spoken.

Henderson’s script craves more nuanced performances, more detailed characterisation and layering of pain with pleasure, youth with maturity. However, this production goes some way in exploring the pain, longing, passion and underlying despair of Tom and Elizabeth.

By Kate Herbert

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