Review Skin In The Game

Review: Skin In The Game

Review: Skin In The Game

A review by Jenny Booth. Skin In The Game at New Wimbledon Theatre Studio –  “plenty of micro-highlights to enjoy”…


New environmental satire Skin In The Game which premieres at New Wimbledon Theatre Studio this week starts on a premise that has some satirical promise. Climate disaster has split the British Isles into an archipelago, and caused millions of deaths. Government has more or less collapsed along with the Houses of Parliament, and the country is effectively run by Danny (Craig Talbot), a predatory, boundlessly ambitious game show host who loves the sound of his own voice and has only his own interests at heart. Fading television journalist Elizabeth (Kristin Duffy) is trying to expose Danny for triggering the misery he then exploits, but the public seems disinterested in hearing the truth and wants to remain in the thrall of the messianic Danny and his Hunger Games-like television show. The play makes sly references to the current government, as Danny’s sinister henchman Bob reels off a self-serving quote he attributes to “Lord Johnson”.

At the start of act two, Gill Kirk’s script takes a madly different turn, however, when Elizabeth – who has gone missing – wakes up underground in the presence of three immortal beings, who have kidnapped her. The idea of the battle for the soul of the planet has now veered into the realm of Marvel comics, or at the least Terry Pratchett, and with this the satire stops being effective. The lead characters make manful efforts to inject feeling into their situation, but it is an uphill struggle, particularly for Duffy whose character suddenly and apparently randomly develops sexual fantasies about Danny. Danny’s own obsession with Elizabeth is odd and unpersuasive, and a lack of conviction creeps in that deadens the melodrama of the ending.

Ultimately Skin In The Game has a lot in common with a student show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In a pokey venue off-off the Royal Mile, it would all have made sense: the bonkers stage combination of grandiose concepts (global environmental disaster!) and wildly ambitious scenes (a cave under Schiehallion, inhabited by a troll, a bumblebee god and an elemental force); the microscopic budget (the scenery was mainly three logs and a pile of bin bags, while the lighting effects were too meagre to create the atmosphere needed as an alternative); the way three actors and their mates in the audience were intended to portray a mob of thousands. On the positive side, the play is short and vigorous, and there are plenty of micro-highlights to enjoy – Eden Avital Alexander-Tyny brings energy to her portrayal of a troll and a game show contestant, Ed Theakston buzzes petulantly as the bumblebee, and Nick Biadon is chilling as the psychopathic Bob. But the visuals are unconvincing – perhaps it would work better as a radio play, or as anime.

Image: © Jane Hobson