Uncomfortably great

14 April 2017

Adam Hutton squirms under the racist gaze of Thick Skin – and loves it


Let's dive right in and talk about that bit in Thick Skin. You know the bit I mean. That bit when Jess (Caitlin McEwan) does a bit of racist stand-up. Well done guys. Particularly Caitlin. I would not have done that, but then I'm not an actor, and the bravery required to say those things in a room of strangers should be applauded. 

I'm saying well done not because I have been dying to see hate speech onstage. I don't have a framed picture of Farage or anything. I'm saying well done because it was done for the right reasons. Saying what was said brought racism down to a level every person in that room has experienced. It was no longer a buzzword that we throw at far-right politicians, it was real and it was in front of us.

The traverse staging was completely justified by this section too. Knowing that you had people sat opposite you, knowing you were not hidden in a crowd, knowing that your reactions would be seen by people made this scene incredibly uncomfortable. No safe space here, you were as much a part of the performance as Caitlin was. My brain would not stop throughout that bit "do I look too comfortable? Do I now look too annoyed, they look horrified over there, do I not? I think I am but they definitely look more horrified than me, like they are a full 10 horrified, do I look like that? I think I'm up there? Maybe a 9? Oh god, do I look like I'm considering what she is saying? Like I'm fine with it?" And on and on until the section ended. This might just have been me, as I am powerfully awkward, but I feel it should be noted regardless. I haven't felt that uncomfortable in a very long time which I think was the goal... so well done.

Kwami Odoom as Oli was great. Easy charisma made him infinitely watchable; Kwami, if you don't already do stand-up please start, you have the stage presence for it. Also your costume looked great. Good use of colour. #3sexypoints.

The interaction between Jess and Oli was really nice, very believable and it really humanised the character of Jess after the stand-up routine previously. I found myself warming back up to her rather quickly, and I think her interaction with Oli helped this massively. I kinda wish Naomi (Hannah Azuonye) had interacted with either Oli or Jess during this piece; her scenes seemed to all follow a similar pattern, which she did well, but it would have been nice to see her in a less interview-like setting. 

Pete, played by Harvey Comerfield, was unfortunately rather one-note. I mean, that one note was done very fucking well, but he was simply a creepy fuck with nothing to like about him. Harvey, I probably won't ever speak to you for the rest of this festival due to you being so convincing as an arsehole. I'm very sorry about that. I think I would have preferred (and this is just one person's opinion – you do you guys! #liveyourdreams) to have Pete be more murky in how he came across, with his "mate, what the fuck is wrong with you?" side coming into focus at the climax. It felt throughout the piece like we were supposed to not like him, and perhaps it would be more impactful if we did like him and then realised what fools we had been. 

To sum up 

  • Thick Skin grounds race issues in the world that surrounds us, forcing us to self-examine and consider things we may not have before.

Stray observations

  • Some scenes in this play felt a little like a tennis match, having to look from side to side during them, but perhaps I shouldn't have sat so close to the front.
  • Is it a weird thing to just like Sia's music generally? I don't really care about the fringe thing, I just dig her music. Am I wrong in this?

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