Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Race, bullying and being different makes George want to change skin with another, but is this possible and does it work?
What’s your skin? Is it good? Would you swap it if you could?
This is the main theme of the play Skins and Hoods by Gustave Akakpo. Matthieu Roy staged the play’s world premiere in French at the Avignon Festival in 2014, and now he is restaging it in English, mixing film and live action for the Edinburgh Fringe 2015.
The play starts with a scenario about bullying towards a boy and girl (Mamadou and George) in the playground who are different. While this sounds like a common occurrence these days, sadly, the author initiates an intriguing exploration of the topic. One solution is when George, played by Moyo Akande wishes she could change her skin colour, so she does this literally when she finds a spare shimmering skin with no apparent owner. Does this make a difference to her? It’s difficult to say because her mother pays no attention to her either way.
In school that morning, the teacher asked students about their culture. This insinuates that they are from somewhere else, but the student who may look different replied that she is from the same place as the teacher, so she has no ‘other’ culture. Illustrating this point even more is the cast of four Scottish actors and the setting with film projections seems to be Scotland, although no specific country is mentioned.
The set plays a big role in this play because of how it transforms from a rectangular black box – with video panels for walls – into a sliding corridor, opening to show a deeper narrow abstract perspective. The cast of Moyo Akande, Ashley Smith, Thierry Mabonga, Jennifer Black with Claire Aveline and Charlotte van Bervesseles are agile and quick changing shape shifters in grey hoodies or puffy jackets – on stage in person and some of them instantly run off stage appearing in video, cleverly projected from rear screens onto narrow wall panels. The use of video is fascinating, the staging and coordination with the video timing is very slick and contemporary. This is a very innovative use of multimedia in a play dealing with important topics in a poetic way. The text makes you think and reflect on what culture really is and that difference is relative. An unusual insightful play with deep meaning that is innovatively produced.