Review: Under The Skin / Is This Thing On?, Old Red Lion

Under The Skin and Is This Thing On? make for a feminist double-bill worthy of your time at London’s Old Red Lion Theatre

“I liked it…until I didn’t like it”

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, the folks at the Old Red Lion are putting on a double-bill featuring up-and-coming female theatre-makers – Tik-sho-ret Theatre Company’s Under The Skin and Frigg Theatre’s Is This Thing On?. As they’re both relatively short, it’d be rude not to take ’em both in.

In the wrong hands, a story such as Under The Skin could be incendiary – a love story between a Nazi officer and a Jewish prisoner, and a lesbian romance at that. But Yonatan Calderon’s play has its basis in extraordinary truth and directed here by Ariella Eshed, it has a lot to say to about the complexity of human nature and how identity can be too easily pigeon-holed.

Shifting between near-present and past, between the first Gulf War and the Second World War, between an encounter between a journalist and a Holocaust survivor and the strange progress of that love affair in a concentration camp, Calderon makes a powerful case for really interrogating what we mean by morality, how we look at the past and how we let it shape us now. Bold fringe work. 

Is This Thing On? comes to us as a debut production from Nordic company Frigg Theatre and feels a lyrical, delicate thing. Dísa Andersen’s play probes into the subject of abuse in relationships as 17-year-old Joanna gets swept up into the heady excitement of life with new 26-year-old boyfriend Jack with his iguana tattoo and just a little bit of a temper.

Andersen’s prose has something of a poetic bent to it, with its repetitions and confessional structure. And the way in which she explores the thin line between sex and violence (aided here by movement by Julie Vaapenstand Holm) is disturbing and intriguing in the way abusive behaviour can be normalised, rationalised, forgiven even, by its victims, whilst also showing us that the strength to break the cycle is always there too.

Running time: Under The Skin – 50 minutes; Is This Thing On? – 40 minutes
Photo: Ewa Ferdynus
Under The Skin and Is This Thing On? are booking at the Old Red Lion until 31st March

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