Thick Skin, Elastic Heart

26/10/10

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Thick Skin, Elastic Heart is billed as ‘a hybrid poetry/drama production’ and I’ll admit, based on that description, my expectations are not particularly high. Let’s just say, I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed by such shows in the past. You know the kind of thing. Short pieces of poetry, thoughtful silences, and smatterings of polite applause…

And when I learn that the theme of the show is ‘millennials,’ I’m not exactly overjoyed. I seem to have heard people banging on about that subject a lot recently…

Which only goes to show how wrong you (I) can be.

Touring company Sonnet Youth make a point of showcasing some local talent at every performance so tonight we open with a selection from young poet, Catherine Wilson, who delivers a series of wry, amusing, observational pieces that range from the sweet and poignant, to the downright hilarious. Wilson is a confident, engaging performer and this gets eveything off to a strong start.

And it only gets better.

The pieces that follow, all written by Drew Taylor-Wilson, offer observations on the complexity of modern life: the awful paranoia of job interviews, the tribulations of sexual relationships, a deeply affecting piece about miscarriage… this runs the gamut of the emotions, each successive piece contrasting with the last, so there’s never a sense of repetition – unless it’s deliberate. The show is performed with considerable alomb by Charlotte Driesler, Robert Elkin, Danielle Jam and Cameron Fulton. And it’s not just a series of poems delivered one after the other. Lucy Wild’s choreography has the four performers moving effortlessly around the stage, sometimes delivering monologues, often speaking in unison, augmenting each section with simple costume changes and skilful interaction. To say that I’m spellbound would perhaps be an understatement.

I’ve rarely seen this kind of thing done so well and it exerts a powerful grip on my attention from start to finish. The applause at the end is anything but polite.

After just two nights at The Traverse, the show is moving on for a series of one-off engagements across Scotland. If this should happen to land anywhere near you, do yourself an immense favour and grab a ticket.

I’m confident you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

4. 4 stars

Philip Caveney

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