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The Skriker
by Caryl Churchill

Dates and Venue 5 February 2008 @ 8 pm | Capilano College Performing Arts Theatre

Director Stephen Atkins Costume Design Barbara Gregusova Set Design Laura Sisko Lighting Justin Corrie

Reviewer John Jane

The Capilano College’s Theatre Arts Program production of The Skriker may well be the most mind-blowing show I’ve seen in a long, long time.

English playwright Caryl Churchill's corybantic prophecy of a dystopian planet is a densely erudite and difficult work. Her bleak synopsis reveals what happens when there is a severe disconnect between the natural and supernatural.

So, what the heck is a Skriker? It appears to be a word found only in Ms Churchill's lexicon. In this adult faerie tale she is a shape-shifting, malevolent sorceress who leads, yet never controls a band of otherworldly creatures that inhabit a nether world that might be found somewhere between purgatory and hell.

The eponymous Skriker stalks two sisters and seduces each of them into her own unholy world by granting their wishes. Josie is the first sister we see, a manic-depressive, whom has been committed to a psychiatric hospital after suffering from a breakdown following the death of her newborn; and the more grounded and very pregnant Lily.

Sereana Malani gives a uniquely obeahist portrayal of the omnipresent Skriker, as she hisses and spits Churchill’s ranting, complex dialogue that frequently wanders into colourful nonsense verse: “Slit slat slut - that bitch a botch an itch.” Malani is captivating as she slyly metamorphoses into an old woman seeking empathy, a precocious little girl and a young suitor persuading Lily into a sexual relationship. In the later, she gets help from Tristan Bacon who provides the mirthful mime in one of the production’s lighter moments.

In what are essentially the only other speaking roles, Shannon MacDermott as the “good” sister, Lily and Teagon Mann as the “bad” sister, Josie both work hard to evoke normalcy in such bizarre settings. They do, however, excel in their roles in obverse ways. Mann predominates with exceptional stage presence but her voice is at times almost inaudible in some passages; whereas MacDermott has no problem in projecting her lines, yet doesn’t quite overcome difficulties with stage movement.

A talented and exuberant ensemble cast plays a diverse host of dark and deviant creatures with such curious monikers as Rawheadandbloodybones and Nellie Long Arms that constantly intermingle with the proceedings.

Costume designer, Barbara Gregusova takes full advantage of the superb resources available in creating breathtaking apparel that render an extra dimension to the play’s enchanting characters.

Stephen Atkins’s keen direction keeps the audience totally engaged and wondering about what might happen next. The production quality more than compensates for the writer’s discommodious plot.

© 2008 John Jane