Review: The Skriker

by Lynn on November 9, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Store Front Theatre, 955 Bloor S. W.

Written by Caryl Churchill
Directed by Daniel Pagett
Set by Holly Lloyd
Lighting by Melissa Joakim
Original Music by Andy Trithardt
Dance/movement by Ashleigh Powell
Starring: Claire Armstrong
Elise Beauman
Claire Burns
Sam Coyle
Jakob Ehman
John Fleming
Karen Knox
Luke Marty
Suzette McCanny
Perrie Olthius
Kevin Ritchie
Andy Trithardt
Tim Walker

A bold, gutsy production of Caryl Churchill’s challenging play.

The Story. It’s a devilishly challenging play about a shape shifting spirit called he Skriker, who infiltrates the lives of two sisters, Lily and Josie and involves a whole host of creatures from the underworld. The Skriker searches for love and revenge.

The Production. It was a perfect production to see on Halloween. It is produced by the Red One Collective, one of the gutsiest, most daring indie theatre companies in the city.

Daniel Pagett directs a cast of 13 actors who often play multiple parts. Pagett has set the stage for the forbidding world of the underworld by having us gather in the lobby of the theatre, then follow a Spriggan a woman dressed in black, carrying a black umbrella, silent, who takes us the back way down an alley into the theatre, and into the world of the Skriker. Holly Lloyd’s set is strewn with stuff that looks like so much detritus. The lighting by Melissa Joakim is appropriately sombre and right for creatures who come from under the ground.

The cast is fine. Focused and compelling, but Claire Armstrong as the Skriker, the narrator, is a standout. She is agile and impish. Bowler hat, black jacket and pants. Goulish make-up and not because it’s Halloween. Armstrong delivers those hellishly difficult lines with its alliterations and seemingly unconnected words, and of course makes it all made sense. The trick is for the Skriker to make it look easy and yet serious and not make it look as if the Skriker is one-upping the audience. That’s the easiest way to lose them. Armstrong carries this off with grace and ease

Comment. What makes The Skriker so challenging? It’s written by British playwright, Caryl Churchill. Many playwrights are noted for their language—Tennessee Williams’ language is lyrical and poetic. Samuel Beckett’s is spare and obtuse. Caryl Churchill is in a category all her own.

Many of her plays are full of word games in which language is twisted and turned but if you stay with her the meaning is clear. The Skriker (1994) is a case in point. The narrator is the Skriker who seems to talk in gibberish but the language hides puns, literary references, plays on words that do make sense. For example: “Revengeance is gold mine, sweet. Fe fi fo fumbledown cottage pie crust my heart and hope to die.” The meaning is hiding there…”vengeance is mine…cross my heart and hope to die.” While the Skriker talks in this particular language, all the other characters do not. They talk in a ‘regular way’.

The Skriker is a thrilling production of a hugely difficult play we rarely see. Bravo to Red One Collective for pulling it off with such expertise.

Red One Collective Presents:

Opened: Oct. 23, 2014
Closed: Nov. 9, 2014
Cast: 13; 7 men, 6 women
Running Time: 2 hours approx.

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