Mark Norman, Circle of Spears Productions
Minimalist theatre is one of the hardest genres to be able to pull off successfully. With no distractions of pretty set and lavish effects, the success or failure of a show is down purely to the quality of the actors and their portrayal of character. Time and again, Substance and Shadow have proven themselves to have truly mastered the genre, and nowhere has this been more apparent than in their recent revival of their acclaimed show, Skin Deep.
With only four monochrome chairs and a variety of items of clothing to back them up, as well as a nostalgic 1980s “mix tape” the audience are transported back to Exeter at the time of skinheads and ska and get to follow up close and personal the lives of a small array of characters battling the establishment.
I was fortunate to be able to witness this piece of theatre in the intimate venue of the Cellar Bar in the City Gate, in that very city where much of the action takes place, and the close proximity of the audience to the company only enhanced the whole experience. From the get go you become immersed in the world of these colourful characters and feel yourself being pulled along, sharing their highs and lows, and becoming part of their life.
In such a strong company it would be unfair to single out a single actor – but together they formed a cohesive unit who told a powerful story and gave an equally powerful message with rich characterisation and great skill.
If you have never seen Substance and Shadow perform, or whether you are an avid follower of their work, you should let nothing stop you from joining the audience in any of their forthcoming shows. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. Like their Facebook page, bookmark their new website and join them on their next foray into wherever their new characters take us…