Amanda Wilkin’s, Shedding a Skin, is nothing short of a comically emotional slap in the face. Wilkin’s character of Myah speaks to us as a wildly relatable soul, trying to climb her way out of the complications of life. Turns out that climb starts up 15 floors of stairs. From her failed relationships, career, loneliness and lost sense of self, these otherwise despairing qualities are dressed with a hysterical glow. Wilkin’s also plays an aged Jamaican activist, Mildred, setting the roots of the piece with an ancient heart of fierce morality and desire to reconnect.
On the surface, Wilkin’s story appears as a simple tale of friendship and growth. However, Wilkin’s details during intimate scenes are small glimpses that open a whole other door of curiosity, and these reveal much more of the society the engulfs these women. I also cannot forget to mention the carefully placed, and yet audaciously witty one-liners that develop these characters into people that we can connect to. As Shedding a Skin grips you with both hands, and pours these fabulous characters into your soul, you cannot help but choke back tears in the final moments as they bang their chests, finally united by their friendship.
There are not many shows that I have seen that will make you laugh and think at the same time. But amid my big belly laughs, Wilkin sprinkles questions of race, privilege and gentrification that cause us to analyse our own everyday behaviour and how we can build our close communities for the better. In an age where materialism, and capitalist ventures are becoming scarily normal, we often become blinded to the strength and beauty that we have around us. As Wilkin notes, the joy of learning how to say, ‘How are you?’ becomes dampened by the anxieties and hierarchies of later life. Nevertheless, Myah’s journey of self-discovery leaves me with the urgent need to call my loved ones and stay off my phone for the rest of the day, for her story rings a joy for being present and appreciating the true necessities around us.
The set remains minimal throughout. Consisting of panels of white linen that Wilkin tears down scene by scene, to reveal the wider stage and – I dare to say – her expansion of acceptance within herself. These great sheets are also used as projection screens in transitional interludes where cosmic mapping lights up the stage. As this map covers the stage, differing stories of both kindness and tragedy are narrated through a voice over, specifying that these events are happening in that exact moment but several miles away. These stories bring us back to the bigger picture, to the connections that Mildred continues to preach. It flavours their stories with an essence of something greater than Myah, Mildred and our small lives, and helps us to expand our curiosity for a wider community.
Shedding a Skin takes you on a journey that you do not expect to go on. Amanda Wilkin’s infectious energy fuels her performance with great courage and compassion for both her audience and her narrative. We feel like we are a part of her journey and with that comes a wave of emotion, realisation and unstoppable grins that hold us attentive to every word she says.
Shedding A Skin is playing at Soho Theatre until the 17 July 2021. For more information and tickets, see Soho Theatre’s Website.