Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Under My Skin" - November 2008

My visits to Oran Mor's "A Play, A Pie & A Pint" Autumn season haven't been as frequent as I would have liked, but of all the short blurbs they provide about the shows this was the one that had most grabbed my attention back in September - so I wasn't going to miss it. Written by Ali Muriel this co-production between Oran Mor and Paines Plough is set in a Glasgow morgue where a young medic is about to perform an illegal autopsy under duress - as a police officer with a vested interest looks on.

I can't remember the last time I was so simultaneously impressed and disappointed by a play. One one hand the scenes between the policeman and the rather animated corpse are brilliantly written and performed by John Kazek and Gabriel Quigley - producing some powerful moments and a surprisingly beautiful final scene. But the scenes between Kazek's Inspector and Martin McCormick's medic were a real let down for me, and I don't feel the acting was at fault. They appear to be written and directed to be played for laughs, but it's so over the top that it diminishes the impact of the scenes with Quigley's Shona. Had the bullied young medic character been replaced with an older doctor willingly helping out the Inspector as a favour then I think this might have been one of the most moving pieces I've seen this year. As it stands it's too uneven in tone to deliver the substantial blow to the gut that it has the potential to do.

I'm also not really convinced by the use of the 'haunting' music, but Muriel certainly deserves to be praised for giving an impressively accurate account of the forensic investigation of death by hanging, yet making the procedures sufficiently accessible for the audience to follow.

For those like me with a low tolerance for heavy handed humour the whole may prove unsatisfactory, but its moments of brilliance may haunt the memory of those who see it.

Under My Skin runs at Oran Mor until Saturday 25th November
Image by Leslie Black used with permission