On entering Circa One I am immediately struck by the design. An abstract outline of a farmhouse filled with wood-panel flooring, a tin bathtub and metal buckets is an expert piece of implied realism from set designer Lucas Neal. Partnered with sparse, cool lighting (Brynne Tasker-Poland), it is a stunning opening image. It’s visually beautiful and yet there is tension in the air. A tension which is unleashed from the moment the actor’s storm the stage.
Skin Tight explores the lives of mid-Canterbury farmers Elizabeth (Ella Gilbert) and Tom (Arlo Gibson) and the ebbs and flows of their lives. While the show explores Tom’s experience in War and Elizabeth's strained relationship with their daughter, it is largely driven by these two people sharing a life in this same, unchanging space. That skin tight relationship is presented in large-part through sections of physical theatre. With movement lead by Luke Hanna, Gibson and Gilbert are absolutely electric as they fight, flirt, and fuck, and often all three at the same time. Complimented by Oliver Devlin’s highly percussive compositions and at-times visceral sound design from Ben Kelly we are swept up in the passion and the intense minutia intertwining these characters lives. At its best the whole world feels engulfed by single moments. This is theatre which feels truly alive!
In between times Tom and Elizabeth reminisce, joke, and bicker about the life they have shared. Skin Tight is an eloquent presentation of mid-century life in rural New Zealand delivered for contemporary consumption. There’s a default state of reflection in both script and performance which gives weight to knowledge that Elizabeth is leaving soon. It’s a helpful framing as 2022 audiences look back on a time which feels very much past and are able to appreciate it with nostalgia and understanding.
Katherine McRae helms this A Mulled Whine production with all the detailed class and expert craft audiences have come to appreciate from her work. McRae and her crew achieve true beauty in the final scene of the show. Without giving anything away, the show ends with probably the most beautiful scenographic storytelling I’ve ever seen in Circa One. It’s completely mesmerising and brings much of the audience to their feet in applause, and rightly so. If you’re going to fork out for a ticket at Circa this year, make it Skin Tight!
Skin Tight is playing at Circa Theatre until September 24th. You can grab your tickets from the Circa website.