Review: Skin Tight, Park Theatre ✭✭✭

Even the pleasantly air conditioned Park 90 Studio can’t resist the heat of Skin Tight, especially when Elizabeth and Tom (played by Angela Bull and John Schumacher) are flinging themselves around the black box so energetically and precisely. The couple’s untamed relationship certainly manages to raise the temperature in the room.

Skin Tight is a mesmerising show. You will find yourself lost amongst its many delights. If the outstanding pastoral design from Jessamy Wilson-Pepper doesn’t take you, then perhaps the opening photo montage will enrapture you with its seemingly endless number of images of Tom and Elizabeth strewn against the back wall. There is a Punchdrunk level of detail layered up to create this amazing vista in which the characters reside. Jemma Gross’s direction is similarly specific and you’ll be hard pressed to find any padding in this stripped bare production.

Gary Henderson’s script does occasionally occlude narrative ties and relationships with the aim of offering it up as a revelation later on. It’s a tactic that fails in what is essentially a heartfelt tale of love through the years – warts and all. His decision to obfuscate the facts often feels like the characters are taking pains to speak like they’re in a clever play, and it prevents the audience connecting with the relationships at hand.

Bull and Schumacher manage the multitudinous details with great skill and energy. They move aggressively and cleanly, always fully engaged in their performance. But in managing to hit every mark so antiseptically, the same organic nature represented wonderfully in the design is lost in performance. Every dramatic crescendo is marked by a raised voice, while Tom and Elisabeth’s relationship feels too new and never quite as aged as the text betrays.

One act plays rarely come as high octane as Skin Tight, on a pure performance level it is incendiary work. But for all the power and precision a lot of heart has been lost. It is well performed, but not lived in.

*** (3 stars)
Runs until 11th August 2013
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