Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Blythe Stewart: Skin A Cat

By | Published on Thursday 6 October 2016


You might already have seen (or heard about) ‘Skin A Cat’, because it had a successful run at the 2016 Vault Festival, and won much critical acclaim. If, however, you missed it, you’re in luck: because the production returns this month in a new location, the brand new Southwark Street venue The Bunker.
To find out more about production, and the playwright and company behind the piece, I spoke to Blythe Stewart, director.

CM: First of all (without giving too much away!) can you tell us what happens in the play? What story does it tell?
BS: ‘Skin A Cat’ tells the story of Alana, a young woman navigating through all of the awkwardness and joy of growing up, reconciling what she sees in the relationships around her with her own experiences of sex. It is a personal and unflinching look at the pressures of fitting in.

CM: Are there specific themes you aim to explore? Is the play serious or funny?
BS: Alana is on a quest to lose her virginity, so there are equal amounts of touching and light-hearted moments. It was really important to us as a team to be sure that we represented these monumental life experiences with honesty, which means sometimes you will laugh hard and sometimes you will really cringe. I think everyone will be able to relate to a sexual discovery gone awry and recognise a little of themselves in Alana’s journey.

CM: What attracted you to ‘Skin A Cat’? What made you want to direct it?
BS: When I first read the play I didn’t stop until I finished – I knew that this meant that I was hooked. I was excited by the theatrical world Alana creates to help share her story. We meet all sorts of characters in her life and get first-hand accounts of her first time experiences. The play doesn’t shy away from showing us the reality of these experiences, and I knew that was an exciting challenge I wanted to take on. I was impressed and proud that the play dealt with such a unique individual’s experience in a way that felt universally shared, and I wanted to champion a piece that was subversive, playful and bold.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the playwright, Isley Lynn? Has she been much involved with this production?
BS: The playwright is a remarkable individual. It goes without saying that this story would never have been told without her, but the production would also not be the same without her wisdom and generosity in the rehearsal room. She was there every step of the way, which can be quite unusual, but in the case of our show, it heightened our ability to share her insights and explore her unique, daring and irreverent voice.

CM: The show had a run at Vault Festival earlier this year, has the show changed at all since then?
BS: We had a really wonderful time at the Vault festival, and a lot of that came from our talented and hard working actors, team and supportive audiences. We have the same cast and creatives returning and I am pretty thrilled that I get to spend time with them again. The show has changed only slightly to embrace the larger scale of The Bunker – a completely new, swish and thrilling space. They’ve been such champions of the play and responsive to us as artists – we feel pretty chuffed to be their first show.

CM: As you say, yours will be the first performance at new venue The Bunker – how did your run there come about?
BS: Joshua McTaggart (the artistic director of The Bunker) saw ‘Skin A Cat’ at Vault Festival and in the bar afterwards we had an opportunity to chat about the show and what we loved about Isley’s writing. It turns out that later that same night Josh heard about a potential new space, so it was a bit serendipitous. A few weeks later he was in touch offering us a chance to be involved and we jumped at it. To be a part of such an ambitious, enthusiastic and supportive pursuit is truly invigorating.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about Rive Productions – who is behind the company?
BS: Rive is headed by the brilliant Zoe Robinson. She and I both share a passion for international work, new writing, and playwrights with bold and political voices. Teaming up with Rive to bring ‘Skin A Cat’ back has been a great fit because we both are committed to sharing Isley’s work with a wider audience and engaging in the difficult conversations the play addresses with an optimism and openness.

CM: What’s next for the play? Any touring plans?
BS: That’s the hope! Our first run revealed how deeply necessary it is to share these kinds of stories with everyone, and talk about the quirks of sex and our bodies, regardless of sexuality, gender or age. So a tour is definitely in the works but first we’ve got to smash our tech week and opening and then I can start thinking about that.

‘Skin A Cat’ is on at The Bunker from 12 Oct-5 Nov, see this page here for more info.

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