Institut français d’Ecosse (Venue 134): Fri 7 – Mon 31 Aug 2015
Skins and Hoods at the French Institute is an ambitious multimedia production whose most successful elements are those closest to traditional theatre.
Cie du Veilleur’s French production of Gustave Akakpo’s play, one of a series dealing with images of modern youngsters, has been given a new translation by Katherine Mendelsohn and an all-Scottish cast.
Moyo Akande and Ashley Smith. Photo: Albie Clark
While there is an effective and emotive fable about skin colour, identity, belonging and childhood in here, something may have been lost along the way due to a sequence of strange decisions.
The decision to render the title Même les chevaliers tombent dans l’oubli, which would translate as something like Even Knights Get Forgotten, as the rather more prosaic Skins and Hoods, is the first.
The new title and accompanying publicity images suggest a gritty, monochrome exploration of youth culture (which the first few minutes does indeed resemble) rather than the more playful, fairytale-tinged magic realism that follows.
The multimedia facets of the production are also a mixed success. At times the projections add to the story, but more often they are unnecessary and distracting.
The live action is much more compelling and would probably have made a more satisfying show on its own. Moyo Akande is excellent, both fiery and vulnerable as George, the nine-year-old who wants to swap her skin colour in order to identify with the bullied Mamadou (the highly promising Royal Conservatoire student Thierry Mabonga).
Ashley Smith’s performances on and off the video screens in a variety of roles are impressive, but the cleverness of their variety once again produces an alienating effect that detracts from the story. Much the same could be said of Jennifer Black’s spooky filmed inserts as George’s mother, in a performance that could have come straight out of Chris Morris’s Blue Jam.
Director Matthieu Roy and set designer Gaspard Pinta have created what is, behind the unnecessary technical fripperies, a compellingly told story, while costume designer Noémie Edel is responsible for an extremely telling effect with a skinsuit. Manuel Desfeux’s stark lighting chimes carefully with the video effects.
Whether it is born out of a failure of nerve, or a desire to treat familiar themes in a new way, the bells-and-whistles approach here only serves to obscure an interestingly written and well-performed piece.
Running time: 50 minutes
Institut français d’Ecosse (Venue 134), 13 Randolph Crescent, EH3 7TT
Friday 7 – Monday 31 August 2015
Daily (not Mons 10, 17, 24): 2pm.
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/skins-and-hoods
Institut français d’Ecosse website: http://www.ifecosse.org.uk/