by Gary Henderson.
Park Theatre (Park 90) Clifton Terrace Finsbury Park N4 3JP To 11 August 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat & Sun 3.15pm.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval,
TICKETS: 020 7870 6876.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 July.
A new way of looking at love and life.
Any fringe show playing calm music before events start is lulling its audience towards a rough awakening. With a pastoral setting, even more so.
Certainly here, where peace is soon disrupted down on the farm by the sound and fury of a woman and man, intensely physical in both desire and violence.
Yet Elizabeth and Tom are married. They have a grown-up daughter, of whom Elizabeth particularly talks with concern. And the manic opening comes to resemble the twirling of a spinning-top, gradually slowing and allowing patterns to appear in more detail.
Plenty of plays have mixed present and past but not like New Zealand playwright Gary Henderson (Skin Tight was first seen in Wellington during 2004). Here they interfuse, and co-exist – as two intertwined lives do; what happened years ago can be immediate, or perennial.
Henderson packs in reality with emotions. The thrill of sex and desire dominates the high-pulse opening, finding its keenest expression in a scene where biting an apple, the fruit linked to desire in retellings of the Garden of Eden story, also means taking a knife in the mouth. Cutting-edge drama, and edge-of-the-seat stuff to watch.
But quieter, if no less urgent, passions lie beneath, the qualities that make-up love. Which is tested through anxiety over a child, money problems with the land, conflicts elsewhere. And there’s no end to love, even at the greatest separation which become movingly apparent towards the end. The pace winds-down but not the drama of the relationship.
Wonderful, truthful, and unusual in its presentation. With so much going for it, why did it leave me (though clearly not all audience members) feeling detached? There’s no accounting for the different experiences and sensibilities individuals bring to a piece they’re watching.
But there’s an evident theatricality to the opening which makes it hard to take these as people, rather than characters being performed. And while the undoubted physically sharpness is well-enough matched by vocal quality, there’s not the richness of vocal expression – nor the space given in Jemma Gross’s otherwise skilful production – for it to develop before the quiet closing moments.
Elizabeth: Angela Bull.
Tom: John Schumacher.
Director: Jemma Gross.
Designer: Jessamy Willson-Pepper
Lighting: Sherry Coenen.
Sound/Composer: Gareth Jones.
Projections: Grant Kay.
Movement: Clare McKenna.
Fight director: Dan Styles.