Skin Tight

Epsilon Productions’ Skin Tight at the Park Theatre is a top-class production, with rich performances, says Vicky Ellis

If shallow rom-coms leave you feeling hollow, this is the show for you – brimming with passion on a knife edge, sometimes quite literally, Skin Tight is the real deal.

Originally premiered in New Zealand in 1994, this powerful new production by Epsilon for the Park Theatre’s inaugural season is thrilling.

Couple Elizabeth and Tom reminisce and playfight in taut, often intensely physical sequences – hurling themselves at each other so fiercely they seem to be fighting – before subsiding to mischievous teasing, then confessing lifelong secrets.

Company director and actress Angela Bull’s Elizabeth is both wise and provoking, the wisdom of the world in her eyes belying her child-like exuberance. John Schumacher’s Tom slides from roaring bear to tender lover washing her hair in the tin bathtub.

Sensibly avoiding attempt at New Zealand accents, they settle for native ones – Bull’s languid, loose RP and Schumacher’s Liverpudlian evenly matched.

The choreography and fight scenes – orchestrated by Clare McKenna and Dan Styles – are breath-taking and the erotically charged knife ‘dance’ – for lack of a fitting title – is simply unforgettable.

Director Jemma Gross draws out rich performances from the pair, with a rehearsal technique known as under-reading, which makes the vitality and poetry of Gary Henderson’s play (which is inspired by two poems) truly sing.

It’s a top class production, right through from the gentle folk-tinged music composed by Gareth Jones to subtle lighting changes from soft pinks to colder greens by Sherry Coenen which shift us between timeless to time-pressed.

Art designer Al Stride’s pastoral yet unearthly set – from a reed-adorned bathtub to the golden halo brushed across the floor – emphasises the sense of suspended time perfectly. By the time you twig what’s going on, tears will be in your eyes. They were in mine.

– Vicky Ellis