Skin A Cat

Originally developed with the Royal Court, Skin a Cat by Isley Lynn is a sexual coming of age story with a big (and fairly terrifying) difference. This is because the protagonist Alana (Lydia Larson) suffers from vaginismus, a sexual dysfunction where vaginal penetration causes extreme pain and involuntary spasms.

Surprisingly, given this sensitive subject matter, Skin a Cat is an uproariously funny story about one woman’s search for sexual fulfilment.

Surprisingly, given this sensitive subject matter, Skin a Cat is an uproariously funny story about one woman’s search for sexual fulfilment. This is largely due to first-rate acting from the three cast members Larson, Jessica Clark (who plays all the women characters in Alana’s life) and Jassa Ahluwalia (who plays all the men). Both have an impressive ability to portray multiple characters convincingly, changing effortlessly from minute to minute through slight but precise differences in pose, accent, tone and body language. Ahluwalia should be particularly praised as he has a hard job to pull off as the story necessitates he play one character who is much older than himself.

Brummy Alana has a difficult relationship with her uptight mother (again excellently constructed with a few simple gestures and spot on Birmingham accent by Clark) who is unable to offer much support to her troubled daughter when her period arrives unexpectedly at the age of 9. Years later and Alana has still not mastered the art of tampon insertion and things get worse when she tries to have sex with her boyfriend for the first time. So begins an often graphic tale of Alana’s discovery of and attempts to overcome her frustrating condition.

The cast has a tough task to portray the various sexual encounters and experiments that Alana goes through but are helped by the simple but effective set (Holly Pigott) of a spot lit bed in the round which creates a very intimate stage in the otherwise cavernous space in the heart of the Waterloo Vaults. Lynn’s script is perfectly nuanced, sweeping from hilarious physical comedy that reminds how undignified and silly sex can be (particularly if you’re a woman) to more seriously and poignant moments as the sweet but confused Alana slowly learns to come to terms with her condition.

Larson is innocently charming in this pertinent story which transcends being gratuitous but rather allows the audience to follow and share in a traumatic but also uplifting story of sexual discovery against the odds.

Reviews by Lettie Mckie

Udderbelly Festival

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★★★★★
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Performances

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The Blurb

Every teenager thinks they’re the only one not having sex. But for Alana, it may well be true. She really wants to, but luck is clearly not on her side. Soon she can’t help wondering: Is it this tricky for everyone else? Because no one ever said it was going to be this complicated.

Skin A Cat follows Alana on an awkward sexual odyssey with a kaleidoscope of off-kilter characters: from getting her first period at nine years old and freaking out her frantic mother, to watching bad porn at a house party with her best friend’s boyfriend, to a painful examination by an overly cheery gynaecologist – all in the pursuit of losing her virginity and finally becoming a woman, whatever that means…

A bracingly candid account of sex and shame, gut-wrenching and side-splitting by turns, this is a truly alternative coming of age story about going all the way.

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