Review: Skin In The Game at Old Red Lion Theatre
PUBLISHED: 12:51 27 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:46 27 August 2019
If you are sensitive to a profane tongue, you might want to skip past the expletive-licious charms of Skin in the Game. Or at least cover your ears a bit.
Like a sweary symphony to council estate stereotype, this fiery drama is saved from soap opera silliness by an inventive coda that ratchets up its pathos for a striking finale.
Set in the Nechells district in central Birmingham, three siblings convene to discuss the sale of their father's flat. It is a vertiginously-situated abode; a one-time selling-point that, in the post-Grenfell landscape, stands as a deterrent to potential suitors, affecting its value and ensuring that progress is slow.
The motive for the sale is their father's move into a care home. The proceeds of the sale will give both a nice fat cut to each child whilst hopefully paying for their parent's stay.
Jamie (played by the writer Paul Westwood) is wound up like a coiled spring, nervously twitching and fretting about the floorspace. His formidable brother Danny, meanwhile, is all bundled-up machismo, palpably volatile and handy-of-fist. Having inherited the family's building trade, he fancies himself as a bit of a businessman but he is also clearly only out for his own ends. He oozes menace, but is matched verbally by the razor-sharp, potty-mouth repartee of sister Michelle.
The three have wildly outrageous secrets, but it is Jamie's gambling habit that is the main focus here. He is sitting on quite the revelation - one to top anything else that could possibly be revealed by his squabbling brother and sister.
As a collective, the performances could do with more subtlety in their dagger-edged exchanges. This is a dialogue and execution that hits the ceiling early-on and barely pauses for breath. Although some of the devices employed are ham-fisted, the momentum is giddying, so if you are minded to surrender yourself to the ride, there is much to enjoy.
Westwood's tale of addiction's vampiric invasion on the fortunes of its host may not be new ground, but he throws interesting new shades onto the familiar canvass. In spite of its flaws, Skin in the Game is a pulsating piece of theatre.
Rating: Four stars.
Continues at Old Red Lion Theatre until September 14. For more details and tickets, click here.