Monthly Archives: April 2011

Theatre review: Skinhouse

Skinhouse


Mar 23 – Apr 3

Wed, Fri, Sun 8:30pm / Thu, Sat 6:30pm; extra show on Sunday 3rd April at 4.30pm.

La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street Carlton

Full $25 / $15 Concession

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There’s something almost disconcertingly delicate about Skinhouse. The fifty-five minute play with music, written and performed by Kristina Benton and Fleur Kilpatrick, is so finely balanced, so compact and precisely executed and human and fleeting, that it feels as if it might float or melt away like a sliver of ice on skin.

It’s a play about Kristina’s experiences in sex work, or at least that’s the most headline-grabbing way to describe it. Really, it’s about the relationship between two friends, their home together, old memories, little tendernesses and growing fears and frustrations, viewed through the lens of two storytellers grappling with an industry that threatens to seduce one of them into permanent entanglement. The performances of the two leads, combined with the work of director Danny Delahunty, create a sense of casual, uncontrived, honest intimacy between Fleur and Kristina that’s rare and incredibly difficult to conjure on stage. They travel back and forth between the world of the brothel and the world of their apartment until the two places meld together as Kristina brings the stresses and recollections of work into her home. This blending is exquisitely enhanced by Rob Sowinski’s set, where a living room couch and dressmaker’s mannequin sit in surprising concordance beside hollow plastic female torsos with glowing incandescent hearts and red-lit hanging lights and lamps. The lighting seems nearly alive, growing and pulsing and fading as the emotional landscape changes; soft and inviting for home, rich and dark and parodying sexiness for the brothel, and everything in between for memory and reflection. The music, too, shifts and evolves, but with constant undertones of melancholy and sweetness; Adrian Sergovich’s incidental music and Kristina’s “In Our Living Room” are particular highlights, and Fleur’s gorgeous, clear soprano is just soft enough to make you lean forward in your seat, not wanting to miss a note.

Sometimes I’m frustrated by how ephemeral theatre is. The shows I’ve loved over the years can never exist again in their past form; even if the script is taken up by new people with new perspectives and they create something entirely apart from the original, nothing can recapture a production once it’s over, save for a pale imitation in the form of a recording. Catch this production before it melts away.