Amanda Wilkin proves she is a talent to watch with her brilliant play ‘Shedding a Skin’
Specificity yields universality, and Amanda Wilkin's intimate one-woman show about a 30something woman staring over and trying to find herself proves this concept. I'll be honest: I was a bit nervous to review Shedding a Skin. Who am I — a white, American woman — to weigh in on this stunning story by a Black, British female playwright?
But watching Wilkin radically embody Myah (single, broke, unemployed) as she navigates unknown waters, I realized this is exactly why plays like Wilkin's are important and imperative. We see ourselves reflected in the theatre, but we also should go to the theatre to experience art and expand our perspectives. And sometimes, in the most magical of cases, both cases can be true, where we can relate to and empathize with a story that is simultaneously similar and different from our own.
In the play, Myah (Wilkin) is expanding her perspectives too. When she leaves her job in a fit of righteous rage after being blatantly tokenized by her boss, Myah responds to a flat listing and moves in with Mildred, an elderly Jamaican woman who is subletting a room. What emerges is an intergenerational love story of sorts, not romantic, but in the way that the newfound roommates share experiences and lives.
From Myah learning about Milred's activism and the ways in which she helped pave the way to Mildred coming to understand Myah's millennial malaise and technological methods of connecting, the unlikely duo forge a bond that allows them both to shed any mask or pretense — or skin, if you will — and connect from a place to true honesty.
Designer Rosanna Vize's layered set of screens and scrims acts as a physical skin of sorts, as Wilkin as Myah peels back different sheets to reveal new spaces. These shifting surfaces are a simple canvas for Nina Dunn's sleek projections and Jess Bernberg's lighting. Director Elayce Ismail weaves the production together beautifully, keeping Wilkin's poetry and performance on pace and dynamically unifying all of the elements onstage without sacrificing the heart of the story.
It's no wonder that Wilkin seems to have work in development at some of the most esteemed theatres across London, and that this play has already garnered the attention of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Laura Wade, Lolita Chakrabati, and many others. Wilkin won the 2020 Verity Bargate Award for Shedding a Skin, and the Soho Theatre production marks its premiere.
One of the things I appreciated most of Wilkin's rich tale is that Myah is still very much a work in progress at the end. She does not "find herself" and she is still on her journey to self discovery, a journey that has no end point onstage or in life. "It's okay, I'm conditioning myself to heal," Myah tells Mildred. "I'm gonna be just fine alone and I'm actually grieving for the person I want to be."
While Myah is still figuring it out and lamenting a future that might not exist, one thing seems abundantly clear: Wilkin's own future is undeniably bright, and I can only hope that she is (and becomes) the exact person and artist she wants to be.
Photo credit: Shedding A Skin (Photo by Helen Murray)
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