Charlotte Pegram reviews Skin A Cat at The Bunker
A fabulous way to launch the inaugural season at The Bunker, Skin A Cat by Isley Lynn fits the underground space hand in glove. A double bed sits centre stage with very little else to distract from this intimate story of sexual discovery.
Alana is our heroine; a very normal, quiet girl with a wry sense of humour- the sort of character you’d find in a Working Title film about coming-of-age teenagers at university. Indeed, the trajectory of the play follows that type of feel good format, with a girl finding peace with herself and overcoming her problems. In that sense the play is quite run of the mill. It’s the problem she has to overcome that’s more unusual.
Alana can’t have sex. Not for want of interest or trying, but because her body- or more accurately, her vagina- won’t let her. Having vaginal sex is so painful that she loses consciousness momentarily and finds herself in a fit of spasms. This condition, vaginismus, is common enough, but like many sexual taboos Alana feels unable to speak about it to anyone. Even with her boyfriend it’s an unvoiced issue, preferring to engage in anal sex and leave awkward conversations at bay.
It feels quite liberating watching this play; it’s not one of those Angry Women Plays that include bloody tampon references with the sole aim of unsettling the male audience (spoiler: there are bloody tampon references). It’s also not an In Yer Face play that includes a high volume of explicit sexual references simply to shock the audience (spoiler: there are explicit sexual references). But it is an honest play; a play that happens to be about sex and vaginas simply because those things form the centre of our heroine’s consciousness. Her life revolves around this issue and it is shared with the audience, but in a way that is sensitive, witty and touching.
Don’t be put off by the subject matter of the play. The performances are excellent; Lydia Larson takes the role of Alana with gusto- she can be vulnerable, angry and then break the fourth wall to great comic effect. She is supported by Jessica Clark and Jassa Ahluwalia who play all the male and female characters in her life. In her best role Clark presents Alana’s mother with poignant accuracy, showing the emotional strain of wanting to help but being so entirely redundant to do so. Ahluwalia morphs into various male counterparts, but his most winning is as Alana’s upper-middle class, yogi boyfriend whose zen mindset finally allows Alana to find true acceptance of herself.
It’s like nothing you’ve seen before, so that a 100% valid reason to go. It’s also a great piece of theatre at a hip new venue. Time to book your tickets.
Skin A Cat plays at The Bunker until November 5th.