BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

04/08/2015 - 08/08/2015

Production Details

Looking at her skin, Arianna can see her mistakes tattooed across her body. Trapped in a life that is slowly turning into a nightmare – Arianna battles for communication and companionship, all the while dreaming about a new life that has suddenly presented itself.

The Making Friends Collective is an award winning company comprised of Adam Goodall, Johnny Crawford, Andrew Clarke, Tony Black and Flinn Gendall. Cleanskin is their seventh original production, following Rageface (Fringe at the Gryphon, February 2013; nominated for Best Newcomers at the New Zealand Fringe Awards 2013), Stages of Fear (BATS Theatre, October 2013), Euthermia/Hyperpyrexia (BATS Theatre, New Zealand Fringe Festival 2014), Proficiency Test (Wellington High School, New Zealand Fringe Festival 2015; Winner of the Gold Nugget Award), Game Day (New Zealand Fringe Festival 2015) and The Good News (BATS Theatre, March 2015)

NotreVie Productions is a new theatre company formed last year comprised of Jessica Old and Sasha Tilly. Their first foray into the Wellington theatre scene was this year in the Fringe Festival with I Predict a Riot (Paintball Corp) and FanFic After Dark (Fringe at the Gryphon), where they received a Fringe Nomination for Best Comedy for FanFic After Dark.

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington 
7pm – Tuesday 4th of August to Saturday the 8th of August.

Tickets to Cleanskin can be booked online at
or by calling (04) 802 4175.
Tickets are $18 full or $14 concession

Arianna – Lucy McCarthny
Brenton – Josh McGowan
Hannah – Suzie Halligan 

Set/Costume Designer – Sasha Tilly
Lighting/Sound Operator – Flinn Gendall
Music Composer – Greg Grassi
Publicity Design – Livvy Nonoa

Theatre ,

1hr 10mins

Reality resisted makes for absorbing theatre

Review by John Smythe 05th Aug 2015

It would be easy to write Andrew Clarke’s Cleanskin off as a play about the self-involved self-imploding, just as Irish critic Vivian Mercier summarised Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot as “a play in which nothing happens, twice.” But in both cases there is something strangely compelling … Like watching a panic attack in slow motion, perhaps.

While Godot traps two determinists in an existential universe, Cleanskin sets a young woman’s existential angst – who am I; why am I here; what is it all about; how do I take the next step? – on an inexorable collision course with a fact of life that will be very determined, if left to its own devices.

Clarke’s text is somewhat redolent of Edward Albee plays like The Zoo Story (1958), A Delicate Balance (1966), The Play About the Baby (1996) in that characters who are in various ways adrift – or trapped by being adrift – preoccupy themselves by talking about past events and/or by talking past each other.

Arianna, played with great fluency by Lucy McCarthny, talks and talks to Brenton (an eloquently passive Josh McGowan) – or is she talking to herself? – not about what she really wants to discuss but about a picnic they had in the park, how they may or may not have met, whether they should stay in or go out … And all the while she’s pouring neat vodkas, topping up his glass, which he drains, and pouring fresh ones for herself, which remain untouched … until they are.  

Brenton’s status in the relationship is uncertain; indeed in existential terms his very existence is called into question, mostly by Arianna’s friend Hannah, hyper-performed by Suzie Halligan. Presumably Halligan and director Jess Old have chosen to amp up her performance because Hannah is desperate to reclaim Arianna as the good time drinking, boy-scoring (or not), getting wasted buddy of old … Or is it Arianna who is manifesting Hannah this way as she loses her grip on who she once was and resists what she is suddenly destined to become?

Objectively it becomes apparent Arianna works in a restaurant and has recently been promoted to duty manager while Brenton has lost whatever his job was and is on the dole. Their (her?) home – as designed by Sasha Tilly – is a cut above student flat level. The entire back wall is covered in graphic mementos of Arianna’s life to date, such as may adorn a fridge or kitchen notice board but neater. And empty frames await the future.

What we are witnessing, then, is mostly, or possibly entirely, Arianna’s subjective reality. Some of what she is saying may still be thoughts; some of what happens is filtered memory and some of may be entirely imagined. But the potential for a whole new life is, I think, certain (unlike the phantom variety Albee plays with in at least two of his works).

It is possible Brenton’s behaviour towards the end is objectively real. In fact the final image suggests it could have been his mind we’ve been privy to all along, festering with the eternal questions: Is s/he the one? Is this the life I want? What future do we have …? But there is no sign of his provider /protector genes kicking in, or even knocking at the door of his consciousness. Mind you, her nesting /nurturing instincts have not made themselves apparent either.

Given the inciting circumstance, more could be explored in the future realm, by way of manifesting the fears and fantasies … That none of the characters seem to have a vocation, ambition or skill set that might affect or be affected by this major turning point in their lives may be seen as a deficiency – unless that is a point the playwright is making about young adults today.

As it stands, Cleanskin captures a timeless and universal moment of truth for a whole new generation, and the way reality is resisted in this dramatisation and production makes for absorbing theatre.


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