For Fest: Bare Skin on Briny Waters (Edinburgh review)

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Delicately woven together, the stories of Annie (Charlie Sellers) and Sophie (Maureen Lennon) unravel like a salty lullaby. With their melancholic monologues underscored by live folk music—played by Mortiboy who sits centre stage, watching the action unfold—Hull-based company Bellow Theatre have created a story to tell in hushed tones round a campfire.

Study, work, marriage, babies. Annie and Sophie are desperate for more than the ordinary. As they both catch a current they can’t turn back on, the play reveals the pressures and expectations on young women.

Theirs are the stories of cruel men and crap jobs. Annie, thrown into a life she’s not ready for, tries to regain control through slight acts of rebellion and slow-burning self-destruction. Sophie, trapped by a possessive husband, resorts to other people’s stories. She tells bedtime tales in order to understand her own, recounting Arabian Nights with its myths of honour, horror and possession. When she dives into her own story, Sophie makes it clear the tales of girls trapped by kings don’t only belong in fairytales.

Everything in the production is approached with care. The direction is subtle, the drama creeping through in words rather than actions. At times it begs for a harder edge. Their voices are gentle as they build up the courage to speak out, with Mortiboy’s gentle strumming dappling below their words, never quite allowing the intensity to land. This dark, delicate production reminds us there is still a chance to change the end of every story. Watching it feels like being wrapped in a warm towel after jumping into the cold sea.

Original: Fest

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