Review: Give Me Your Skin

5*
Battersea Arts Centre

It won’t surprise you to know that a performance about toxic masculinity and feminism at Battersea Arts Centre is for all intents and purposes preaching to the converted. There is probably nobody in the audience who disagrees with the fact that we have a problem when it comes to gender.

The magic of this performance is that it can shift that nebulous feeling of a problem which seems insurmountable into micromasteries of action. This is not a show which is shouting at the audience that there’s an emergency and someone should definitely do something. This show is calmly saying that there are steps we could all take to understand each other better and we ALL might actually benefit from them.

Feminism has long been misunderstood as a sort of reckoning for the sins of masculinity but it takes articulate and emotionally rich people to communicate that there’s nothing to be scared of, that the patriarchy is just as bad for men, that equality is limitless and belongs to everybody. Tom, Oonagh and Keiton are more than equal to the task. Their engagement with the audience is brisk but warm and their enthusiasm is infectious. The show has a serious message but it’s not just plonked in our lap for us to deal with, it’s measured out in games and friendly audience interaction. It’s a seriously fun show.

There’s a moment in the performance where Tom and Oonagh are brought into direct conflict purely on the basis of their gender and not their personalities’ or their friendship. It’s an elegant moment where we are moved emotionally by two friends fighting and for them to make up we need them to move past gender. The scene becomes the heart of the piece. It makes us aware through emotional conflict that the concept of gender binaries sets us all up to fail. That if we stop reducing people to a gender and just depend on our interpersonal connections we will be fine. It’s not an easy ask as the show highlights how insidious the gender divide is by an enlightening trip to Toys R Us.

I saw the show on Friday at the BAC and it stayed in my mind all weekend. While thinking about it, and the various relationships in my own life that it touched on I kept on coming back to the E.M. Forster quote ‘Only connect’. This is a show that connects. It’s touring around the country for the next few weeks and I feel like people will be at once charmed by its playfulness and surprised by its depth.

This show has now closed at Battersea Arts Centre, but is performing in Exeter on 27/28th June.  For details of all future performances, visit their Facebook page.

© John Fitzpatrick 2017

GMYS 2

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