Monday, 16 March 2015

Skin Like Butter, Theatre Review by Kate Massey-Chase

The Thelmas’ mission statement reads:

As a result of the gender imbalance in British theatre, The Thelmas are taking matters into their own hands, promoting and supporting rising female talent. They are passionate about seeing more work commissioned that is written by women, for women, and their work reflects this. 

Thus they have brought to the stage an excellent new play by Leah Cowan, Skin Like Butter, which details the story of a young man trying to seek refuge in the UK. The stories and characters in the play were all developed from first-hand accounts, lending an authenticity to the piece, which carefully navigated the terrain between harrowing detail, personal narrative and political comment, with a refreshing dose of humour, prudently used.

Clever and sensitive direction from Madelaine Moore, brought the script to life, and John Omole gave an intense and energetic performance as the lead character, Jerome. Cowan’s writing is poetic and biting, and this play presents a well-drawn collection of characters, from the comedy double-act of hopeless immigration officers, to an infuriating woman in the Home Office, to Jerome’s fiercely independent, itinerant girlfriend. 

This play raises important questions, not just about the stories that we tell about ourselves, but also how we tell them. In Skin Like Butter, Jerome is increasingly encouraged to ‘play the system’, despite his protestations that ‘this isn’t a game’. Without ever preaching or presenting easy answers, Cowan poses multiple questions about the systems in our society, and not only how we respond to those in need, but also how we attempt control the narratives of those dilemmas. 

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