Theatre is utterly unique in that it allows us to come face to face with new characters, before quickly becoming completely immersed in their worlds in a raw, live setting. The Edinburgh Fringe is the perfect place for pieces of theatre revolving around one specific character; amidst the chaos of the festival, it’s refreshing to take time out to listen to individual stories. Fat Content Theatre and writer Anna Beecher have one such piece of theatre, in the form of one man play Skin of the Teeth.
A modern re-imagining of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, it tells the story of a boy with a unique inability to feel fear. In his quest to experience fear and thereby feel complete, Nicholas (Daniel Holme) finds himself in a dangerous situation, and takes the audience on his journey through the sheer power of character-driven, physical storytelling.
Despite having only one actor and a minimalistic set design in the small shipping container-type structure that is the Pleasance’s That space, there’s a lot going on, and it’s all pretty good stuff. Holme is excellent as the 19-year-old in search of a fragment of his identity, carefully plotting and capturing specific details about the character that provokes the audience into wanting to find out more. He has an excellent stage presence, and manages to confidently maintain a grip on the audience during the show’s running time of just under an hour.
Beecher’s script is a gem, and when brought to life by Holme’s storytelling abilities, makes for a powerful and rich piece of theatre. A combination of sharp, succinct phrasing with vivid imagery, Beecher’s words are a striking presence on their own, providing a stunning atmospheric backdrop to the unfolding events of the narrative.
The only problem I have with the play is its tendency to feel a bit too similar at times; this is partly down to the tiny performance space and set design. A lot of pressure is placed on Holme to deliver Beecher’s script, which would seemingly require more gesture and movement to accompany it in a bid to enhance its power. The tiny performance space limits how far Holme can move – and more movement would certainly add extra potency to this script.
But that’s a minor issue that can be corrected in future stagings. Every other aspect of this piece more than makes up for it, and Skin of the Teeth proves itself a powerful play that grips its audience from start to finish.
Skin of the Teeth is playing at Pleasance That until August 29.
Image by Richard Davenport