‘Bold fringe work’: UNDER THE SKIN/IS THIS THING ON? – Old Red Lion Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

Old Red Lion Theatre, London

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, the folks at the Old Red Lion have put on a double-bill featuring up-and-coming female theatre-makers – Tik-sho-ret Theatre Company’s Under The Skin and Frigg Theatre’s Is This Thing On? As they’re both relatively short, it’d be rude not to take ’em both in.

In the wrong hands, a story such as Under The Skin could be incendiary – a love story between a Nazi officer and a Jewish prisoner, and a lesbian romance at that. But Yonatan Calderon’s play has its basis in extraordinary truth and directed here by Ariella Eshed, it has a lot to say to about the complexity of human nature and how identity can be too easily pigeon-holed.

Shifting between near-present and past, between the first Gulf War and the Second World War, between an encounter between a journalist and a Holocaust survivor and the strange progress of that love affair in a concentration camp, Calderon makes a powerful case for really interrogating what we mean by morality, how we look at the past and how we let it shape us now. Bold fringe work.

Is This Thing On? comes to us as a debut production from Nordic company Frigg Theatre and feels a lyrical, delicate thing. Disa Andersen’s play probes into the subject of abuse in relationships as 17-year-old Joanna gets swept up into the heady excitement of life with new 26-year-old boyfriend Jack with his iguana tattoo and just a little bit of a temper.

Andersen’s prose has something of a poetic bent to it, with its repetitions and confessional structure. And the way in which she explores the thin line between sex and violence (aided here by movement by Julie Vaapenstand Holm) is disturbing and intriguing in the way abusive behaviour can be normalised, rationalised, forgiven even, by its victims, whilst also showing us that the strength to break the cycle is always there too.

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Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on FacebookIan Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."