Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Alana is intrigued by sex, like most other young girls her age. But her first attempt at it is painful and traumatic. She is sure there’s something wrong with her. This is the tale of a young woman’s journey of self discovery to finally becoming comfortable in her own body.
According to the NHS, Vaginismus is the body’s automatic reaction to the fear of some or all types of vaginal penetration, and it’s a lot more common that you might realise. Playwright Isley Lynn has real life experience of this condition and her script sensitively and respectfully examines its effects on a young girl. Lydia Larson, clad in nude underwear which both covered her body and revealed her vulnerability, gives a brave, powerful performance as the lead character Alana.
She’s supported by Libby Rodliffe and Joe Eyre who stand at each side of the stage speaking into microphones, at times joining Larson in the action centre stage, playing an assortment of characters from Alana’s life. Rodliffe’s portrayal of Alana’s repressed mother who tries desperately to connect with her daughter but just cannot bring herself to express her emotions is well drawn and heartbreaking to watch. Eyre’s awkward teenage Pete is endearing and frustrating as Alana’s boyfriend who ultimately cannot understand or support her situation. Blythe Stewart’s direction is clean and effective, allowing us to become immersed in each stage of the story.
The piece is full of humour with painfully honest portrayals of the milestones in a young girl’s life – the first period, the first sexual experiences and the various conversations about these things with peers and parents. It might sound rather niche, targeted at an exclusively young female-bodied audience, but that’s not the case at all – in the performance I saw there were audience members of all ages and backgrounds clearly enjoying the show. The strength of Skin A Cat is its ability to make the story of one girl’s experience of Vaginismus become something we can all relate to – the struggle for self-acceptance and self determination.
Having already been performed in 2016 (with a different cast) in London, the show has undergone a long development period and is clearly all the stronger for it. Rive Productions is a company to watch.