Set in Holloway prison at the height of the Suffragette movement, Her Naked Skin concerns inmate Lady Celia Cain, whose encounter with a fellow prisoner, young seamstress Eve Douglas, leads her on an erotic but dangerous journey of discovery. It includes graphic depictions of force-feeding and self-harming, which caused a strong reaction at last Thursday\'s premiere (See Photos, 1 Aug 2008).
Directed by Howard Davies, the cast features Lesley Manville, whose previous credits at the National include The Alchemist and His Dark Materials as Lady Celia Cain, while Jemima Rooper plays her lover Eve. The large ensemble also includes Susan Engel, Adrian Rawlins, Ken Bones and Dermot Kerrigan. Her Naked Skin joins Melly Still’s production of The Revenger\'s Tragedy in rep, and finishes on 24 September 2008.
Critics were impressed by Davies “gripping” and “even-handed” production, which many felt had “epic” proportions. The cast were generally praised for their “outstanding performances”, and although leading ladies Manville and Rooper were both warmly applauded for their work, it was supporting actress Susan Engel who stole much of the limelight, being hailed by one critic as the “supporting performer of the year”. Some concern was expressed over an apparent “fluffy grasp of the politics” of the era, but generally critics appreciated Lenkiewicz’s ability to express the political through the personal in a “deeply affecting” play. Designer Rob Howell also fared well, receiving much praise for his “magnificent” stage designs.
- by Kate Jackson & Theo Bosanquet