Fishskin Trousers at the Finborough Theatre
On a bare stage except for three chairs, one by one the actors enter and take their seats. A girl in tattered clothes is lost in her thoughts, half amazed, half frightened by the noises around her – this is Mab, a servant at Orford Castle in the 12th century. A boy pretends to be busy jotting down notes: it’s Ben, a radar scientist in 1973. Another girl slowly sips a glass of wine, staring into the void: it’s Mog, a teacher in 2003.
They each tell us their story, bit by bit, creating suspense. The stories intertwine and we find out that the three characters have something in common; tension builds as secrets are revealed and a universally happy ending is unsure.
Matt Leventhall designed the lights for the production to draw attention to each character individually, as in an interrogation. They speak directly to the audience in a concerned river of words, flowing gently to be understandable and abruptly when they are overcome by their feelings. The use of language is outstanding – the script is rich, with every single word glowing in a different hue and vividly conveying powerful meaning.
The actors’ performances are brilliant. Jessica Carroll as Mab speaks perfectly as the medieval girl from Suffolk (where all three stories are set). Her gestures are emblematic and her expressions so authentic that it feels as though she is visiting straight from 1173. She portrays Mab as a good-natured, simple girl haunted by the past, humorous but with a disquietude emerging from within. Brett Brown as Ben is similarly commendable. Again, the actor’s interpretation is excellent, and he speaks with an Australian accent as if it were his own. Brown shifts easily from funny to disturbing and distressed. Eva Traynor is slightly less intense but equally engaging as she plays with words in an attempt to express her turmoil.
The play’s story is original, well-written by Elizabeth Kuti and brought magnificently to life by the actors. Fishskin Trousers is about sin, repentance, chance and defeat, and it’s deeply cathartic. Definitely worth seeing.
Fishskin Trousers is at the Finborough Theatre until 28th September 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for Fishskin Trousers here: