The Skriker

Long after the Manchester International Festival has ended, its spirit lives on in the Royal Exchange’s production of Carly Churchill’s Skriker, starring Maxine Peake.  In a recent Guardian interview she described the themes as ‘Femininity, womanhood and motherhood being tied together by Mother Earth.’  These themes are the strong links that hold this production together.  And what a production this is, showcasing the best of what Manchester has to offer.

Despite every effort – trees in the foyer, entrance through a black tunnel, mood setting sound – this play takes a long time to inhabit its environment.  Maxine Peake’s opening monologue captures the mixed up indefinable world of the Skriker, but then the play loses pace and emotional impact.

But when this play does burst into life – in the raw, carnal form of the feast – it takes on a new life.  From here on, the play becomes complete and draws you in completely.  Maxine Peake is astonishingly good as the many faces of the shape shifting mischievous spirit, perhaps too good at times for what is ultimately an ensemble (if mainly non-speaking) cast.  But what sets this play apart is the way in which the world of the Skriker is created by innovative set design and outstanding physicality from the cast. In the stalls you are part of the play; you are sat at tables ‘on’ the stage, and it happens all around you.  Take a moment to look at what is happening in the seven mini sets on the edges; there is so much going on in this play.

There is just so much great theatre in this production that by the end I was completely captured by the world of the play. And I wanted more. I wanted to see where this world – our world – ends up.  I could happily have stayed another hour.  Or two.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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