Luch Caise-Dearg, Classical Journey
Three years after the premiere of “Skin Deep” at the City Gate Hotel, Substance and Shadow Theatre Company have brought the play back to Exeter for four nights as part of a tour of the South West. (See review of the redux at the Exeter Ignite Festival – Bikeshed Theatre 8 June 2013)
This year, after playing the Barbican in Plymouth, and the Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol, Substance and Shadow returned to Exeter for a four-night run at the Cygnet New Theatre – and their old home, the cellar bar of the City Gate Hotel on Exeter’s Iron Bridge.
Once again Nathan Simpson is Alex, the more successful stay-at-home ‘brother’ of Jem, played by Midge Mullin. The recreation of their close but antagonistic acting relationship is precise – renewed seemlessly after three years – unlike the relationship between the two characters they play, after their three year separation.
Mike Gilpin, as the malleable Sam (or ‘Biro’ as he is disparagingly called), is still master of the Rubik’s Cube, but not of his own life. Brighter than he seems, he is still not bright enough to stay out of trouble.
Rosie Mullin, as the enigmatic outsider Pearl, observes and interacts. Her distance and impartiality lend perspective and depth to this provincial tale of insecurities and prejudice.
This production is as sharp and arresting as ever. The four main players interact with balletic precision. They create a great dramatic tension, even for those who are familiar with the story. Jill Coley was replaced by Tracey Norman as Alex and Sam’s Grandmother (originally an off-stage character, but subsequently introduced in the flesh to wind up any loose ends). Nan’s concluding monologue stands alone as a homage to the endurance of a single mother in post-war Britain.
The run continues at the Cygnet tomorrow night (Saturday 6 February) at 7.30pm, before moving to the City Gate Hotel on Monday and Tuesday night at the slightly later time of 8pm.