You never see the twist coming, mark of a good storyteller that, writes Michelle Dee. On one side of Bellow Theatre’s Bare Skin on Briny Waters, is the rather fanciful ‘Sophie’ played by Maureen Lennon. Sophie is wrapped up in fabled tales of Scheherazade with a marriage steadily going south. On the other side sits Annie, played by Charlie Sellers, a bright media graduate, now unremarkable, almost five years later still working in Admin, perfectly settled with partner Joe.
We find each sat on a bench by an oak tree – the attractive set design tells as much – recounting how they came to be there. Told in direct address Annie’s and Sophie’s lives are slowly and carefully unwrapped. The audience are invited in, to appreciate all the familiar life details, the childhood memories, the aspirations for the future and the expectations. The descriptions of drifting along and then having gone too far away, losing yourself, not knowing how to get back, they are all ideas we can relate to. What did happen to all those plans?
Produced by Bellow Theatre, Bare Skin on Briny Waters is written by Maureen Lennon and Tabitha Mortiboy, with music also by Tabitha. The two performances are incredibly engaging. Sophie comes across vulnerable, breathy short sentences, questioning herself, wrapped up in the past, almost childlike, where as Annie is capable and straightforward, the kind of girl any mother would want for her son.
With this being direct address, neither actor interacts with the other, yet their stories run along side by side, sometimes overlapping, written in such a way so one story can live momentarily inside the other.
The writing is superb; the way the two narratives run parallel to each other and are teased in and out, the pacing and the complete belief and emotional investment in each character, demonstrates masterful handling and control.
Much like the classic storytelling device used by Scheherazade, there are moments when each story appears to be tantalisingly close to something, something important, but then the focus switches to the other story. Another layer is revealed, a new chapter begins and the story continues. It is beautifully done.
Intelligent, suspenseful, realistic, Bare Skin On Briny Waters is another example of finely crafted theatre from the emerging company of Hull and Bristol graduates.