Semi-autobiographical, Skin a Cat is a personal and ambitious story of sexual discovery and dysfunction, exploring the challenges and consequences of not having a ‘normal’ sex life. Alana’s journey is unique and yet Skin a Cat speaks to our shared experiences with joy, candour and levity making a difficult subject more accessible. It will run from 12 October to 5 November 2016 at London’s new underground theatre The Bunker. I interviewed Isley about the piece, here’s what she had to say.
Thanks for talking to Break A Leg. Tell me about the piece and the inspiration for it.
I’m basically fixated on new stories and fresh perspectives – I wrote Skin a Cat because I didn’t see my experiences of sex reflected in the media around me. It felt important to put a story out there that was honest and unflinching and not the same old representation of female sexuality as a binary of repressed vs rampantly promiscuous. Alana, like most of us, is somewhere in the middle and it’s complicated.
Was it an easy play to write and how has it translated from page to stage?
It was easy to write and easy to stage – it was just getting the right team to do it with that took a long time. I’m picky about who I work with but once Blythe Stewart took hold of the text and we found three fantastic actors to bring it to life it took off in ways that surprised everyone – but that’s definitely because we took our time finding the right people to work on it in every aspect. And when everyone wants to achieve the same thing and we all have clarity about what that is then the work is straightforward and intuitive.
What were your main considerations when casting it?
When casting (and choosing directors) I always look for people who have the same ideas about the text as I do, who are likeminded in what they see in the script and have the same motivations for doing the play. That way everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet from the beginning and rehearsals are a collaboration where everyone’s creatively contributing. For Skin a Cat we looked for actors who were talented, adventurous, playful, and hard-working – and we got them!
How does the venue lend itself to the piece?
The Bunker is very hip and cool so I guess that means the play is very hip and cool and for someone who has spent their whole life being very unhip and very uncool that’s pretty nice. Apart from the space itself being ideal for large audiences without sacrificing on intimacy, The Bunker are also great allies and are actively involved in the mounting of the show, very supportive and responsive to our needs and keenly interested in hosting an event that expands the experience of the show beyond its running time. It’s very exciting to be the first show there, we all feel like rock stars.
What do you feel the main theme might evoke in audience members?
I remember watching an audience member’s reaction to the penultimate scene at one of the Vault shows – they were bent forward, eyes fixed on Lydia Larson (who plays Alana), nodding and grinning almost furiously, physically willing her to make an important realisation in the play’s final moments. It was so inspiring to see because it meant the play had taken them on a journey that they were totally immersed and invested in. And they weren’t the only one. I can’t wait to see those reactions again.
What would you say to encourage audience members to come?
It’s very very funny. Lydia is hilarious and heart breaking, Jassa (Ahluwalia) is silly and sexy in equal measure and Jessica (Clark) is totally endearing and compelling in whatever role she inhabits – those who saw her in Jon Brittain’s Rotterdam will know what I mean. Plus there’s plenty of willy jokes. And there’s the added prestige of being at the first show of what is set to become the coolest theatre for adventurous new work – definitely “I was there” material.
Thanks so much Isley, wishing you all the best with the production.