‘In a village far away, by the wild landscape of the sea, every full moon the Selkies appear. As they peel away their seal skin, they dance freely in the moonlight, as humans. One such night a fisherman discovers their secret and, stealing away a Selkie’s skin, our story begins.’
Devised by the Tmesis Theatre and directed by Elinor Randle, with the assistance of Stage Manager Joey Colasante, Sealskin is described as a powerful story of betrayal, power, otherness, and loss. It is all these things yet more as, rich in meaning and metaphor, it explores what it means to be, to long, to belong.
The cast – Stephanie Greer, Faye McCutcheon, Samuel Pérez Durán, Mariana Pires, and Jaquell Walker – excel with each taking a principal role as well as supporting in an ensemble as we embark on a mesmerising and spiritual journey that explores nature and mankind at their best and worst, moving from sea to land before ultimately returning as part of a circle of life explored.
The powerful drama at the heart of this production is represented through Tmesis’ trademark playful and highly skilled physicality that seamlessly takes us into and out of worlds that we do not know but can recognise from each symbiotic relationship performed.
This physical transformation is enhanced by the simplest of props that are re-imagined in a variety of contexts with great dexterity and application from the cast. This is complemented with some powerful projection and sound design from Noel Jones who, with Dylan Howes, has coordinated the overall design, with lighting from Phil Saunders, costumes by Katy Anne Bellis, and puppetry from Chris Murray. I could smell the sea; the fishing village brought back beautiful memories of time spent in Staithes; and the market scenes were fittingly reminiscent of rural times now sadly long gone, complete with sweat and toil, fun and frolic.
This visual delight was topped off with a live musical accompaniment from me + deboe (https://meanddeboe.com/me-deboe), whose folksy renditions captured that same sense of time and place whilst adding a further interpretative layer to the unfolding drama that was voiced through unknown words that hinted well enough, with the support of an expression and movement, for the audience to be able to follow: we might not know the location or the language but we can easily recognise the all too familiar behaviours parading before us.
Physical theatre is by its very nature physically demanding and tonight’s performance left no pebble unturned on its wave-struck shores with exquisitely timed choreography throughout; it was clear at its conclusion that there had been a real emotional demand on its talented cast too, with this first performance dedicated to Pires’ best friend, Sonia.
This is interpretative theatre at its best, allowing the audience to be consumed by and make their own personal connections: whilst I wondered if some aspects of the church scene were played too much for laughs, the audience clearly revelled in them; and although the conclusion gave some satisfying closure, one aspect felt unresolved, but these personal conundrums were washed away by a much-deserved double standing ovation for a piece determined to make you engage and reflect, in what I would best describe as a very moving and emotional experience, and the perfect launch for Physical Fest 2023 (https://www.tmesistheatre.com/physical-fest/) .
Sealskin performs for two further nights at Liverpool Everyman on Friday 30th June and Saturday 1st July at 7.30pm, further details and booking https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/whats-on/sealskin
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 29th June 2023
North West End UK Rating: