Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu’s play Skeen! has its audience in fits of hysterics within the first few lines. Appearing in Oval House’s 33% London, a festival dedicated to the 33% of londoners who are young people, Skeen! is one of the many highlights on offer from our newest generation of playwrights and theatre makers. A play within a play, Skeen! focuses on a group of school teens as they put on a play about street life and gun crime at their school. Coming from differing backgrounds, the teens present a mix of racial stereotyping, fulfilling their stock characters with foul-mouthed talk.
Skeen! is a clever play, one that has you laughing until your sides hurt at the way in which the characters come across and interact with each other, whilst simultaneously showing that you should never really judge someone from their exterior alone. It is this juxtaposition that makes Skeen! so enjoyable to watch, we recognise these characters from our neighbourhoods but equally recognise our own judgements upon people based solely upon their skin colour, hair extensions or clothing. This skill of almost farce-like dialogue that Fynn-Aiduenu’s play creates is a real gift, and captures the temperature of young people and their views about each other.
Directed by Roy Alexander Wiese, Skeen! triumphs in a first half that continually packs a punch of one liners, excellent over-the-top acting, and more bitchy hand waving and lip puckering than you’d find between school kids of today. Veronica Beatrice Lewis’s character of Vanessa really hits the mark of a girl who defines herself by her attitude and her body, believing that only men with an eye on the prize of sexual interaction will value her. Lewis’s sniper-like comments and grinding hips bring a wealth of charactertisation to Vanessa’s gobby dialogue. Equally there are continual laugh-out-loud moments with both David Ajao’s African goody-two-shoes Isaac and Cory Hippolyte’s hard-man Ira. Both of these young actors prove that the larger a character gets the more explosive the laughs can be, and really contribute to the enjoyment of Fynn-Aiduenu’s dialogue.
The second act of Skeen! suffers from pacing issues, and a tightening of script and subject matter are needed to bring the audience on the journey of ‘social issues’ that Skeen! ultimately portrays. The first act is so strong, so it’s a shame that the characters seem to unravel and disperse during the more emotive scenes and dialogue. However, with such a strong cast and excellent first half, it’s easy to look past these mistakes to see the joy of what Skeen! as a comedy/farce can offer.
An evening of surprising talent and laughter. If Skeen! is anything to go by then I’d keep a watch out for some of Fynn-Aiduenu’s work in the future. He taps into a real understanding of language and character that replicates a side of life that is both real and distant from its audience – no easy feat. With an excellent cast and the showcasing of young creatives, Skeen! fits comfortably in the 33% London Festival.
Skeen! is playing as part of the 33% London Festival at Oval House Theatre. For more information on tickets and the festival see the Oval House Theatre website.