Written by: Gary Henderson.
Directed by: Melissa Fergusson.
Produced by: Amanda Turner.
Presented by: The Charlatan Clinic.
At: The Maidment Theatre, 8 Alfred Street, Auckland City.
When: 8pm, 25 June; 4pm, 26 June.
Transport yourself to the not-so-idyllic actualities of the post-war New Zealand landscape. Farming families amputated from their lands by the urban banks, the unspoken class snobbery, sexual tensions between husbands and wives. New Zealanders tend view our rural heritage with a degree of idealistic nostalgia. However, Gary Henderson’s ‘Skin Tight’ is a startling, humanist treatment of men and women confronting their needs, their insecurities and their fears in the face of death. The play is a brutal reminder of the layers of human love: aggression and gentleness, infidelity and loyalty. Yearning. Need. Sex. The dialogue earns its place with emotive punches and transgressive meaning. The descriptive value of the language heightens the narrative mode. I imagine that in a hundred years, audiences will still be watching ‘Skin Tight’ and they will still find empathy with the characters. That is the value of a well crafted story: themes of love and the mortal human condition resonate within us, whether we care to admit it or not.
Perhaps, I’m somewhat biased. After all, this is a play that strikes close to my love for storytelling. Yet what moves me is the treatment of performance. Without exaggeration, Melissa Fergusson is a remarkable director who is prepared to stand against commercial demands in favour of the minimalist and avant-garde. Her direction is beautifully provocative and demanding, and one that also places a great deal of trust in the actors. By favouring the sparse stage, simple lighting designs and organic sounds, one becomes aware of the power of delivery and the emotional processes taking place on stage. In fact, the stage arena in ‘Skin Tight’ becomes open space which involves a sharing of experiences between audience and the performers. Moments of humour spill easily into the seats. Laughter backwashes onto the stage. For Fergusson, her trust in the leads has paid off. Julia Croft and Chris Neels deliver solid and consistent performances in a play that I can only described as ‘one heck of an emotional rollercoaster through lust, anger and love.’ I am left with the weight of Fergusson’s edgy direction and a tale that will continue to echo in me long after the performers have left the stage.