Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) Skin (undercurrents)

Smaller is Sometimes Better
by Jim Murchison 

The Undercurrents Festival which launched at GCTC last evening is designed to give voice to the brighter, edgier work of some of the smaller, cooperative less mainstream companies. Each play has been developed or created by at least two people and Skin which was the first play I saw, was written by 10 people. Interestingly, Skin is the only one of the seven pieces that describes itself as being written. The other plays merely refer to themselves as created. I suspect that is because when you have  ten minds improvising and developing a new work you have to write it down or you'll derail.

Skin is an amoebic piece about what alienates women from their lives. The form is ever shifting and keeps the audience guessing about where it is going next. I’m not sure if this is intended to be an analogy of how we shed and regenerate our skin throughout our lifetime, but that is what I read into it. 

The premise is based upon the maritime folk tale of the Selkie. A Selkie is a seal that comes to land, takes off its skin to reveal a beautiful woman who generally frolics on the land for a bit before putting her skin back on and returning to the sea. If one of these Selkies were to fall in love and live on the land, how long would it take before the homesickness for the sea and the dryness would compel them to return?  

Martha Ross has directed a piece that incorporates live instruments which those that have read me before know is always my preference where possible. A harp is played with a bow like a cello. Human voices and reedless recorders provide wind effects. The harp and fiddle are also played in the more traditional manner. The only male in the production, Nick Carpenter, accompanies on piano, for the most part in a thick white wig that looks like Beethoven having a bad hair day. It is also wonderful to hear the powerful operatic voice of Doreen Taylor-Claxton in such an intimate space. One really gets an idea of the power and beauty of the music at such close range. 

It would be impossible to give away the plot of Skin as it is more thematic than plot driven. Although the company, Deluxe Hot Sauce, is dedicated to telling stories about the complexities of women, the concept of stagnating or drying up and needing to go on is a theme that both genders can relate to.  The cast is uniformly strong, but I particularly related to the strength and vulnerability of Sarah Finn in a number of roles. I did get the sense that the play, if mounted again, will continue to evolve in much the way we all do as we grow into our skin.

Skin is at undercurrents to February 16


  1. Photo for SKIN taken by Julie Laurin :)

    1. No indication of photo credit in programme or media kit.


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