In Skagway at the Arcola
The draughty, rough wood basement of Dalston’s Arcola Theatre suits a play encompassing sea voyage
At the tail end of the 19th century, the Alaskan town of Skagway has been deserted in the wake of a false gold hype. Aspiring actress Frankie first encountered Irish-speaking starveling May many years ago while boarding a passage to America; Frankie smuggled May onboard the ship, and has since employed her as an assistant. In real-time, Frankie is chair-bound and speechless after a stroke. May has invested the gold money of her intrepid daughter, Teresa-Belle, which she claims she will earn back when Frankie recovers and performs her famous dance, last witnessed at the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty. As cunning Teresa-Bel
Ardiff, with her multidisciplinary
Characters provide a disorient
But is this crime – indeed is any of the corruption of the play – real? Or is it what Frankie creates, through the distorted mirror of her brain damage and bitterness? The author’s note to the script speculates that Frankie may experience “deficits and altered realities” and plays out “her own arc within the real-time scenes”, but the main impression we get from her expressions during the performance are of aggression and cruelty. This leads us initially to dislike her, rather than recognising her impotence and the nuances of her confusion. But this is more a reflection on our narrow-mindedness than anything the production team are accountable for. Perhaps it’s a planned disorientation, which resonates after we leave the theatre.
Confusing but eloquent, In Skagway describes a rootless, commercialised existence in which the human body and heart are saleable.
In Skagway is on at Arcola Theatre until 1st March 2014, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch Karen Ardiff speak about In Skagway (originally entitled The Goddess of Liberty) here: