REVIEW: SKIN A CAT (The Bunker) ★★★★


Lovely, stylish girls, with attitude, usher you into the theatre. They are dressed in beautiful red, A Line, dresses with flared, below knee length, skirts. Deep red lipstick completes the fifties image. Their make up and coiffures are immaculate and sensual, their conversation is flirty. There is a great atmosphere even before the play begins.

The middle of the stage is occupied by a nicely made up double bed with microphones on stands either side of the bed at the head end.

Skin A Cat is an award winning play concerning Alana, her sexual dysfunction and her subsequent inability to lose her virginity. She can’t achieve penetration because it is too painful for her. It is speculated that the discomfort is caused by her nervous tension, although perhaps there are other psychological and physical reasons too.

The play openly discusses the subject of difficulties that many people face in their normal, less than perfect, sex lives. It discusses, in a direct, often humorous way, the most intimate of human pastimes. The language used may offend some people, although the audience, after an initial snigger or two, seemed largely unconcerned.

The opening scene concerned Alana’s mother’s inability to talk to her thirteen year old daughter when she has her first period. Alana points to this as possibly one of the prime causes of her largely psychological problems.

The remainder of the play shows Alana’s sexual problems with a number of boyfriends, most of whom mean well but are as inexperienced as she is. One of the most memorable moments of the play is the look of relief and triumph on her face when she promotes an ejaculation from her current lover orally. A happy climax for both of them.

Alana is played by Lydia Larson who’s acting is fascinating. She has a certain way of iterating what is happening in front of the audience that is funny and endearing. There are two further actors. The excellent Jessica Clark who’s roles include Alana’s up tight mother, her best friend, her gynaecologist and various, more experienced, young women. Jassa Ahluwalia plays Alana’s various boyfriends, most of whom are frustrated by their inability to fully consummate their lovemaking.

Without exception all the three actors are brilliant. They are young, talented and experienced. They have all appeared on television and film where their credits include the likes of Doctors, Casualty, Silent Witness, Ripper Street, Peaky Blinders etc. Their theatrical experiences include plays at the Duke of Yorks Theatre, The Old Vic, Trafalgar Studios and many many other venues.
The writer, Isley Lynn, has written a brilliant, thought provoking and funny play. She is definitely a talented writer who, on the evidence of this play, is really going places.

This was only the second night of the first ever production at The Bunker theatre. The Bunker is located on Southwark Street near London Bridge and no more than two metres from the Mernier Chocolate Factory (it has a lot to live up to).

The auditorium comprises an open space surrounded on three sides by raked lines of comfortable, well padded seats. The theatre is subterranean, built in what was an underground car park. In general, with me an exception, the audience were young and smart. They were very appreciative of the production and applauded with gusto at the end.

The Bunker is small, I counted a little over a hundred seats, and intimate. It prides itself on being “a home for ambitious artists to create work for adventurous audiences”. On the evidence of this first production this is exactly what they are achieving.

Reviewed by Graham Archer
Photo: David Monteith-Hodge

SKIN A CAT plays at The Bunker Theatre until 5 November 2016