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Mysterious Skin (Manchester)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Vertigo Theatre Productions have never shied away from plays covering topics that other companies fear to tackle and Prince Gomolvilas' play only reinforces that.

Scott Haim's original novel has been condensed with superb skill into two hours of mesmerising, albeit uncomfortable theatre. The play revolves around two young men. Brian is haunted by recurring dreams of strange events and is convinced that he has been abducted by alien.

 He meets Avalyn (who believes she is an abductee) to help him find out what happened. Neil is gay and turned to hustling at the age of 15, after realising it could be very lucrative for him, but he himself has his own issues around why he turned to that form of employment.

But as the play unfolds, through flashbacks and present time events, it becomes clear that the two young men are linked by a terrible event from their childhood which has left Brian so traumatised that he can't remember it and Neil affected that he cannot forget and it effects how he lives his life.

As always, directors Craig Hepworth and Adele Stanhope have encouraged stunning achievements from their predominantly young actors. David Lock (Brian) is totally convincing as the repressed geek, and his emotional breakdown is heart-wrenching to watch.

Richard Allen makes Neil a seemingly confident character but the depth of his issues are portrayed with impressive emotion. With strong support from Ciara Tansey, Steph Reynolds, James Devlin and Katie Burgess, the whole play is dark, dramatic and poignant.

Mysterious Skin is not an easy evening's entertainment, but it is a stunning piece of contemporary theatre, and leaves you deeply affected by both the subject matter and endeavours of a group of excellent actors and directors.

- Helen Jones

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