Rive Productions are shining the light on a condition more common than many realise: vaginismus. In this performance written by Isley Lynn and directed by Blythe Stewart, teenager Alana has a feeling she might be different. It begins with the agonising pain when she first tries to use a tampon, and overshadows her many attempts to lose her virginity. As Alana grows older and sex becomes more of a talking point amongst her friends, Alana’s shame becomes unbearable. How can she admit the problem to anyone when she can barely admit it to herself?
Sensitivity is carefully maintained during explicit moments.
Lydia Larson is excellent in her role as Alana. She shows gentle vulnerability that makes us feel for Alana’s situation, whilst also embracing more brash and unflinching moments of comedy. Joe Eyre and Libby Rodliffe take on the rest of the roles with energy and variety. A stand-out point from Rodliffe was her role as Alana’s mum, a character that embodies the uptight awkwardness generally facing discussions around sexual problems.
Physical theatre is cleverly used to show scenes of sex without allowing them to spill into vulgarity. Sensitivity is carefully maintained during the play’s more explicit moments. The main problem with Skin A Cat is its staging, which unfortunately feels quite stagnant. Most of Alana’s monologues take place on the bed at the centre of the stage and the majority of the dialogue also seems limited to this area. Movement around more of the space could inject further interest and expression into the performance.
Overall, Skin A Cat touchingly conveys the hidden experience of vaginismus. Culminating in a powerful final scene, Alana's journey convincingly puts forward why sufferers should not feel ashamed or defined by the condition. For many in the audience, this performance will be the first time they have heard of vaginismus and Rive offer a memorable introduction.