Boys Have Skin is a new play by Jake Stewart from Kissing Booth Productions. It is a large ensemble piece with much to enjoy. Seeing new LGBITQ writing in a small but charming venue is an aspect of Midsumma Festival that is so appealing. That a new play can be mounted on such a low budget and involve so many people from the LGBITQ community coming together to make theatre is a great feature of Melbourne’s fringe.
A tongue-in-cheek warning is given to patrons via signage at the entrance to the space, ‘swearing, nudity and gay witches’. There is a lot of swearing plus a character who glides onto the stage for a couple of scenes completely naked. And yes, we all like witches on stage and those of the gay persuasion are even more fun. This is what Stewart’s play centres around, the lives of three money-hungry, status grabbing gay witches who concoct all sorts of plans to fulfill their desires which, in the end, bring about dire repercussions.
Of course there are underlying themes to the whole narrative: good outdoes evil, loneliness can destroy and power corrupts, but it was a joy to just sit back and watch such an extreme camp-vamp fantasy played out on stage. Boys have Skin is kind of gothic drama meets Glee Club.
The cast relish playing their characters and each of them commit to their respective roles. The three witches, played by Grady Lynch, Peter Turner and James Hardy, handle the terrain of a high octane and vampish shenanigans with energy and strong focus.
Luke Peverelle plays Hank, a character who is the most grounded of all the characters. His portrayal of sincerity and of honesty was engaging. Hank is a man who is socially awkward and overly earnest whose burden is unrequited love. Peverelle’s character draws attention away from the mayhem of the lives of the three witches and his story within the play is so sweetly played out.
Rachel Glynne’s character, Miranda, is the lone female voice amongst the array of the male characters. She plays an important part in the play at its end, a sort of all’s well that ends well moment.
Lewis Coulter was a stand-out with his comic timing playing Gilly, the seemingly loyal servant to the witches. His amusing meta-theatre walk-ons during the show and his affable demeanour were enjoyed by the audience members.
The piece is played out in-the-round and the actors make excellent use of the space. The set comprises of a makeshift cage centre stage which houses Tim (Jack O’Brien) who has the misfortune of becoming a victim of the diablerie of the witches. Tim meets a terrible fate and through some excellent focused acting by O’Brien, he is able to bring a certain amount of pathos to the second act.
Luke McShane wrote original music for the play with Stewart writing lyrics as well. This added a somewhat haunting aspect to the mood of the play at key moments. It was a nice touch to include singing a the different stages of the narrative but it was Rachel Glynne’s scenes when she was singing which were really memorable. Her voice was strong and beautiful to listen to.
It was the costumes by Patrick Cook that also added to the humour and sass to the piece. From sheer net tops and leather straps to long cotton toga-like sheets draping across an actor’s body, there were lots of interesting costume choices.
Quite a lot goes on in this full-length play and it is a credit to Stewart who wrote, directed, produced and marketed this production. It has many twists and turns and the characters are amusingly one-dimensional. The set is simple and the concept fun for the most part. It is an evening’s entertainment that proves anything is possible with a play about the dark art of witchcraft!