Review: Skin in the Game
Image courtesy JIH and Greenwich Theatres
Charlie Allen - Danny
Kathryn O'Reilly - Michelle
Paul Westwood - Jamie
David Whitworth - Phillip
Nechells, Birmingham, Summer, 2019.
The family flat isn't selling.
Dad's been moved into a care home that needs paying for.
Three estranged siblings meet to fix the problem.
But the reality of the situation is more terrifying than any of them can imagine ...
Infused with the spirit of Philip Ridley and Irvine Welsh, Skin in the Game is a blistering new thriller that lifts the lid on survival on the edges of society and confronts what happens when you lie to those who know you best.
Occasionally, a play crops up which probably only requires a review of half a dozen or so words to pretty-well do it justice.
This is one of those plays.
'Riveting', 'ingenious' and 'brilliant' are just some of the words that readily spring to mind.
But since I know all too well that readers - and members of the cast and creative team - can feel cheated by a short review, I'll cast brevity aside and add a little more detail about this play than might strictly be necessary to praise its many merits.
Of all the genres I see throughout the year, a gritty drama is the one I most enjoy - as long as it also has quality acting, directing and writing to go along with it.
This is one of those plays.
That, I hasten to add, doesn't mean I review musicals, comedies and other shows through gritted teeth.
I'm simply stating my preference - as much as a theatre-goer than as a reviewer.
Skin in the Game has that kind of gritty reality that I admire, even if there's more than a touch of the extraordinary about it that makes us wonder just how 'real' it could be.
Still, plenty of news reports reveal that reality is often more extraordinary than anything the imagination might conceive.
The story here involves three grown-up siblings and their dad.
Set in the latter's flat, the siblings have assembled in order to sign the sale documents for the property.
They intend to use the proceeds to pay for dad's care home and to split the rest between them.
Paul Westwood's gambling-addicted Jamie is obviously anxious and distracted from the very first moment we meet him and his nervousness slowly ramps-up as the story unfolds.
Charlie Allen's brutal and menacing Danny is most definitely leader of the pack among the trio, determined neither to be duped nor dispossessed of his inheritance.
And Kathryn O'Reilly's sister Michelle might seem like a caring mum but she's also a drug user, which Danny is perfectly prepared to use against her as required to get his own way.
That's really all I can reveal about the plot, save to say that there are several cleverly-designed surprises in store - not least of which is what's happened to dad.
Skin in the Game most certainly falls into the gritty drama category bubbling with invectives to inject plenty of earthy, street-level credibility into proceedings.
It's also a terrific thriller with a uniquely clever plot that skilfully wrong-foots us along the way.
Impeccable acting, terrific directing and great writing make this one of the best plays I've seen in a long time - and if this isn't an award-winning production then there really is no justice in the theatrical world.
Must-see stuff of the first order.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Old Red Lion Theatre
Our show listing for Skin in the Game
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