Bare Skin on Briny Waters: ‘the dramatic equivalent of a Laura Marling song’

Bare Skin on Briny Waters explores survival and escape in forgotten seaside towns, with a pair of young women struggling to keep their heads above water. It’s a show that questions young women’s place in the world; it’s about female anger, love, and the struggle for independence, and investigates how a generation promised everything can forge its own path.

On the 13th April, the show is coming to the Marlowe Studio. It was part of the Hull City of Culture 2017 TakeOver up in Edinburgh during the fringe, and garnered a lot of coverage, from BBC Look North, The Stage etc, and the cast are really excited to be bringing it South, to perform at a beacon of new writing.

We caught up with writer and performer Maureen Lennon to find out more:

How would you describe the show?

 We got a quote from The Stage describing it as ‘the dramatic equivalent of a Laura Marling song’, we’ve hung on to that one! It’s a mixture new writing and storytelling, which lulls the audience along but before long the narrative takes them somewhere really unexpected. I would say the show is lyrical, wry, and filled with a gentle rage which burns in the souls of its two characters.

 

What is new or unique about the show?

I think it’s a real eclectic mixture of song, music, storytelling and new writing, which moves between all four in a unique way. It trusts the power of the story it’s telling, and in the ability of a good yarn to enrapture an audience, whilst trusting them to make connections and interpretations of their own throughout the show. I think the story it tells is the most unique thing about the show – it explores female relationships and identity in a way which is often still side-lined on our stages.

Where did the idea for the show come from?

It came from two places. One was an interest we have as a company in storytelling and trying to uncover the hidden, often female, voices in traditional tales. We wanted to see how this might blend with contemporary female stories and ask whether telling your own tale can we a route to self-articulation and freedom. We were also inspired by where we’ve come from and the experiences of many of our friends, a feeling that opportunities are limited but our generation was promised choice, the fear that- particularly as a woman- it can be difficult to escape from sweeping patriarchal narratives.

The video looks as if it could be set in Botany Bay or thereabouts. Are you from Kent? How has the landscape or the environment influenced your writing, if at all?

Actually, the trailer is set on Flamborough Head on the East Yorkshire coast, so we’re heavily influenced by the sea but along a slightly different coastline. The landscape is always really important in our work as a company, and I think throughout the text the rhythms of the sea are matched in its lyricism and the pull and swell of these characters stories.

 The show has original folk music – how did you join together the writing and the music?

We’re really lucky because the show’s co-writer Tabitha Mortiboy is also a really brilliant musician so she composed and performs the music. This meant she obviously had a complete understanding of the text, and the music matches its rhythms, twists, and turns. The music is really important for us in helping to transport the audience into all the worlds our characters weave with their stories and pushing them always towards the heart of their tale. Obviously rehearsing with the music and text is crucial, the more you are all in the room together, the more you can learn to adapt and meld to each other’s delivery and let things be truly responsive in each performance.

What are your future plans for the show?

Last year the show did quite a lot, from Incoming Festival in London, to Edinburgh Festival as part of the Hull City Of Culture 2017 TakeOver. It then went on a small tour in October and has been on a slightly larger one this Spring, which we’re heading to The Marlowe as part of. We’ve got one more date at Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax after this and then it’s going to bed for a while, so catching it at The Studio is probably one of the last chances to see it.

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