Skin in the Game
Reviewed – 23rd July 2019
“The three leads perform their powerfully naturalistic lines with immaculate timing and almost exhilarating rancour”
In a crime and drugs plagued central Birmingham district, three siblings grapple with the seemingly everyday task of disposing of their father’s flat following his move to a care home. However, the central role of Jamie (Paul Westwood) is haunted by a gambling addiction, presaged even before the play opens by the sinister sounds of gaming machines. So, there’s a growing sense of unease from the off as Jamie bickers and banters first with his domineering brother Danny (Charlie Allen), then with his sister Michelle (Kathryn O’Reilly), run ragged by single-motherhood and poorly paid work leavened only by casual drug use. The filth-flecked dialogue flows in a breathless stream of malign gossip and invective, barely concealing all the characters’ craving for one form of instant gratification or another and the reduction of their relationships to the purely transactional.
What starts as a topical, issue-led drama heading for a morality tale ending, then shifts its ground in the last quarter with the appearance of the father himself (David Whitworth) in a flashback scene revealing a goodness behind Jamie’s fecklessness, and much badness elsewhere, turning kitchen sink realism into a slightly contrived whodunnit. On our way to this denouement we discover that documents have gone missing, the flat has been taken off the market, and the sinking feeling widens into a bottomless chasm, drawing all three in.
The three leads perform their powerfully naturalistic lines with immaculate timing and almost exhilarating rancour, with the refreshingly sympathetic role of their father bringing a well-judged counterpoint at the end. Direction by Clemmie Reynolds is just as precise, benefitting from some imaginative sound and lighting from Alex McNally. Emily Megson’s set somehow makes the grim, claustrophobic flat fill the ample Greenwich Theatre stage whilst making the grimy furnishings form a pleasing tableau and costume by Emily Ntinas is subtly spot on – literally, in the case of the stains ornamenting Michelle’s stretch jeans.
A very impressive full-length debut from Paul Westwood, though lacking in resonance for anyone expecting an indictment of the causes and culture behind these blighted lives. As satisfying as the twist is, and as masterly as the characterisations are, a move from social commentary to a plot revelation in flashback does entail a loss of emotional engagement, not to say a few questions in the mind of the audience as they leave.
Reviewed by Dominic Gettins
Photography by Stephanie Claire
Skin in the Game
Previously reviewed at this venue:
Full casting announced for The Cardinal at Southwark Playhouse
Natalie Simpson (Royal Shakespeare Company’s recent productions of King Lear, Hamlet and Cymbeline) joins an eleven-strong cast to play Duchess Rosaura alongside the previously announced Stephen Boxer.
by James Shirley
Stephen Boxer, Sophia Carr-Gomm, Phil Cheadle, Ashley Cook, Marcus Griffiths, Patrick Osborne, Jay Saighal, Natalie Simpson, Timothy Speyer, Paul Westwood and Rosie Wyatt
Directed by Justin Audibert
Designed by Anna Reid
Lighting by Peter Harrison
Sound by Max Pappenheim
Stephen Boxer plays the Cardinal. Theatre includes Raising Martha (Park Theatre), The Inn at Lydda (Shakespeare’s Globe), Shadowlands (National Tour for Birdsong Productions), Regeneration (Royal and Derngate Theatres, Northampton and National Tour for Touring Consortium Theatre Company), King Lear, The Holy Rosenbergs, Aristocrats, Power, Volpone, At Our Table, White Chameleon, The Shape of the Table and Once in a While the Odd Thing Happens (National Theatre), Titus Andronicus, The Heresy of Love, The Tragedy of Thomas Hobbes, The Taming of the Shrew, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night, Richard III, The White Devil and Rousseau’s Tale (Royal Shakespeare Company), Anjin: The Shogun and The English Samurai (HoriPro Inc., Japan and Sadler’s Wells), Written on the Heart (Royal Shakespeare Company and Duchess Theatre), Hay Fever (Rose Theatre, Kingston), Brighton Beach Memoirs (Palace Theatre, Watford), The Great Highway (Gate Theatre), The Hypochondriac (Almeida Theatre), Love and Marriage and God and Stephen Hawking (Theatre Royal Bath), A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (Almeida Theatre and National Tour), Ten Rounds (Tricycle Theatre), Antarctica (Savoy Theatre), Six Characters Looking for an Author (The Young Vic), Six Degrees of Separation (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield), Bartholomew Fair (Royal Shakespeare Company and The Young Vic), The Herbal Bed (Royal Shakespeare Company and Duchess Theatre), Oleanna (Haymarket Theatre, Leicester), Measure for Measure (Cheek by Jowl), The Clearing (Bush Theatre), Karate Billy Comes Home (Royal Court Theatre), Barbarians and The Duchess of Malfi (Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre), Faith, Hope and Charity (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith), The Water Engine (Hampstead Theatre), Judgement Day (Old Red Lion Theatre) and Portraits (Savoy Theatre). Film includes Postcards from London, The Gatehouse, Bomb, Ginger and Rosa, We Are the Freaks, The Iron Lady, Children of Men, Rabbit on the Moon, Seven Seconds, AKA, Mary Reilly, Crossing the Border and Carrington. Television includes Poldark, The Five, Agatha Raisin, Lewis, Lucky Man, Humans, Life in Squares, Toast of London, The Honourable Woman, Foyle’s War, Death in Paradise, Father Brown, Garrow’s Law, Luther, Doctors, Casualty, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, The Mould in Dr. Florey’s Coat, Midsomer Murders, Mysterious Creatures, The Quatermass Experiment, Silent Witness, Together, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Absolute Power, Cherished, Dalziel and Pascoe, Life Begins, The Bill, Trial and Retribution, Absolute Power, Rosemary and Thyme, Ultimate Force, Murphy’s Law, Sons and Lovers, Trust, Blue Dove, In Deep, Grafters and Prime Suspect II, III and VI. Radio for BBC Radio 4 includes John le Carré: The Biography and To a Mountain in Tibet.
Sophia Carr-Gomm plays Valeria. She trained at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Theatre includes Heartbreak House (Open Air Theatre, Brighton), Othello and The Tempest (88 London Road, Brighton) and King Lear (Citizens Theatre, Glasgow). Film includes The Inbetweeners 2. Television includes Shetland, Mr Selfridge, Doctors and World’s End. Audio plays include Doctor Who: River Song 3 and Doctor Who: The Day of the Comet.
Phil Cheadle plays Hernando. He trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Theatre includes Breaking the Code (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester), Henry V (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park), The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (Chichester Festival Theatre and National Tour), Piranha Heights (Old Red Lion Theatre), Variation on a Theme and Events While Guarding the Bofors Gun (Finborough Theatre), Blue Remembered Hills (Northern Stage, Newcastle), Mrs Affleck (National Theatre), Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II and Bedlam (Shakespeare’s Globe), The Changeling (Cheek by Jowl), Neighbourhood Watch (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Tricycle Theatre and 59E59 Theaters, New York), Dear Uncle (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough), All My Sons (The Curve, Leicester), Far From the Madding Crowd (English Touring Theatre), Knives in Hens and Tartuffe (Arcola Theatre), Macbeth (West Yorkshire Playhouse), If I Were You (Library Theatre, Manchester), Strawberry Fields (Pentabus), The Tempest and Saint Joan (USA Tours for A & BC Theatre Company) and As You Like It (Northcott Theatre, Exeter). Film includes John Carter, Comes a Bright Day, To the Sea, It’s About Time and A Touch of Sadness. Television includes Dark Angel, Silent Witness, The Crimson Field, New Worlds, Inside the Titanic, Hollyoaks, Coronation Street and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.
Ashley Cook plays the King of Navarre. Productions for Troupe include Flowering Cherry (Finborough Theatre) and The White Carnation (Finborough Theatre and Jermyn Street Theatre). He trained at Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. Theatre includes King Lear (The Old Vic and English Touring Theatre), The Mousetrap (St. Martin’s Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry), Romeo and Juliet (Derby Playhouse), A Doll’s House and The Importance of Being Earnest (Theatre Royal, Lincoln), She Stoops to Conquer and The Daughter-in-Law (Perth Theatre), The Art of Concealment and How to Cook a Country (Riverside Studios), Absent Friends and The Importance of Being Earnest (National Tours for London Classic Theatre),The Bootmaker’s Daughter (Brighton Festival), F***ing Men (Finborough Theatre), Love and Understanding (BAC), Stonewall (Pleasance Edinburgh and The Drill Hall), Cahoot’s Macbeth (King’s Head Theatre) and Much Ado About Nothing (Antic Disposition). Film includes A Mind of Her Own, Love in a Dangerous Time, Don Justino de Neve and Llar. Television includes The Bill, The Basil Brush Show and Patrick Hamilton: Words, Whisky and Women. Radio includes Behind Closed Doors: Excluded, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Bad Memories, Development, Inside the Whale, Inside Stories, Q & A, Life Class, Sharp Focus and My Turn to Make the Tea.
Marcus Griffiths plays Count D’Alvarez and Antonelli. He trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Theatre credits include King Lear, Cymbeline, Hamlet, Love’s Sacrifice, Volpone, The Jew of Malta, Richard II and Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company) and The Globe Mysteries and Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare’s Globe). Film includes Unhallowed Ground, Adored and Never Far from the Tree. Television includes Versailles, The C Word, Julius Caesar and Skins.
Patrick Osborne plays Lord Xavier. Productions for Troupe include After October (Finborough Theatre). He trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Theatre includes Noises Off (Nottingham Playhouse, Northern Stage, Newcastle, and Nuffield Theatre, Southampton), Peter Pan (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park), Shakespeare in Love (Noel Coward Theatre), Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body for Vibrant 2013 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights and Accolade (Finborough Theatre), The Seagull (Baron’s Court Theatre), The Pearl (Rose Theatre, Kingston) and Clockheart Boy (National Tour). Film includes Their Finest. Television includes The Borgias, The Genius of Turner and My Parents Are Aliens.
Jay Saighal plays Columbo. He trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Theatre includes Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and As You Like It (National Theatre), Othello and The Merchant of Venice (Royal Shakespeare Company), Ross (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Aladdin (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough). Television includes Spotless.
Natalie Simpson plays Duchess Rosaura. She trained at LAMDA. Theatre includes Cordelia in King Lear with Antony Sher, Ophelia in Hamlet with Paapa Essiedu and Guideria in Cymbeline (Royal Shakespeare Company) and Measure for Measure (The Young Vic). Film includes Tula: The Revolt and Balloon. Radio includes Words and Music: Women Walking Alone and In Tune: Sounds of Shakespeare.
Timothy Speyer plays Antonio. He trained at Guildford School of Acting. Theatre includes The Alchemist, Don Quixote, Doctor Faustus, The Witch of Edmonton, The Roaring Girl, Cardenio, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The City Madam (Royal Shakespeare Company), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Royal Shakespeare Company and Garsington Opera), The Ladykillers (New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Hull Truck), The School for Scandal (Park Theatre), Laburnum Grove (Finborough Theatre), The School for Scandal (Theatre Royal Bath), She Stoops to Conquer (National Theatre), The 39 Steps (Criterion Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Rose Theatre, Kingston), Pygmalion (Theatre Royal Bath, National Tour and Hong Kong Arts Festival), Great Expectations (Library Theatre, Manchester), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Shakespeare’s Globe), The Vortex (Apollo Theatre and National Tour), Arsenic and Old Lace and Arms and the Man (English Theatre, Vienna), The Anatomist (Eastern Angles), Goblin Market (Southwark Playhouse), Tom’s Midnight Garden and The Witches (National Tours for Birmingham Stage Company), Pygmalion and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Eye Theatre, Suffolk), Bridges and Harmonies, Mademoiselle Colombe and The Boundary (Bridewell Theatre), Puss in Boots (Polka Theatre), She Stoops to Conquer (Birmingham Old Rep), The Wind in the Willows (Torch Theatre, Milford Haven) and While the Sun Shines (National Tour for Channel Theatre Company). Film includes The Clap, The Mystery Man and Plonk. Television includes Call the Midwife, Shakespeare Unlocked, The Impressions Show with Culshaw and Stephenson, Londoners, The Dorset Hanging Oak, Wind Up TV, The Hutton Enquiry, Newsnight, The Unmarried Family and Crime Monthly. Radio includes The World at One and The World Tonight.
Paul Westwood plays Lord Medrano. He trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Theatre includes Lazarus (King’s Cross Theatre), King Charles III (National Tour for Almeida Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company), Dunsinane (National and International Tour for Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre of Scotland), A Life of Galileo (Theatre Royal Bath and National Tour for Royal Shakespeare Company), Three Men in a Boat and Dancing at Lughnasa (National Tours for Original Theatre Company), Two’s Company (Old Vic Tunnels), Outward Bound (Finborough Theatre), Seagull and Manchester (Arcola Theatre), Plucker (Southwark Playhouse), The Ring of Truth (Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond), Twelfth Night (York Theatre Royal), Great Expectations (Library Theatre, Manchester), Hapgood (Birmingham Rep), Starlings (Old Vic New Voices: 24 Hour Plays), Othello (Birmingham Stage Company) and Hamlet (Robsham Theater, Boston). Film includes Us and Them and Mortdecai. Television includes McMafia, Da Vinci’s Demons, Gracie!, Walter’s War and Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story. Radio includes Real Crime: The Hungerford Massacre and Voices from the Old Bailey. Writing includes Tides, Citizen Recall: Mrs Helen Stridgen and Zain Tyrannus.
Rosie Wyatt plays Celinda. She trained at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Theatre includes Spine for which she won the Stage Award for Acting Excellence (Soho Theatre and National Tour), Mumburger (The Archivist’s Gallery), The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Chichester Festival Theatre and National Tour), Worst Wedding Ever (Salisbury Playhouse), Blink (Soho Theatre and Traverse Theatre), Virgin (Palace Theatre, Watford), One Man, Two Guvnors (National and International Tour for National Theatre), Mogadishu (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith and National Tour), Bunny (nabokov) and Love, Love, Love (Paines Plough). Television includes Inspector George Gently, New Tricks and Doctors.
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