• Drama
  • By Karen Ardiff
  • Director: Russell Bolam
  • Arcola Theatre, London
  • Until 1st March 2014
  • Time: 20:00
  • Review by Sonia Louis
  • 11th February 2014
In Skagway
4.0Reviewer's Rating

Absolutely brilliant. Archola’s new ‘In Skagway’ leaves the audience in awe of Angeline Ball (Frankie), Geraldine Alexander (May), Kathy O’Brien (T-Belle) and Natasha Starkey (Nelly)—all of whom embody tragedy, suffering, hatred and dark humour.

As Frankie is suddenly struck with a brain disorder, her faithful caregiver May attends to her needs, constantly reminiscing her nine-day wonder in 1886: dancing beside the statue of Liberty.  May, seemingly oblivious to the world around her, is then cheated into giving away her gold—all the wealth the household possesses to escape the wasteland in Alaska. The stage portrays one setting: a stagnant wooden cabin. The desolate circumstances are juxtaposed with emotionally wrenching characters; we see human cruelty in all its rage and pain, and the power of revenge as T-Belle creates every opportunity to retrieve the stolen gold. ‘In Skagway’ captures confusion and loss in a world of physical and emotional poverty.

We also see the decline of what Frankie and May perceive as ‘fame’—not only does the production question the very idea of success, but it is soon realised that Frankie’s past was mere narcissism, exaggeration and sensuality. The play also thrives in guilt and reparation—the audience learns that May promised herself to be the caregiver of the household because Frankie had (reluctantly) saved her life as a starving child. In paying this debt to Frankie she struggles to live a life of her own; she herself my not have any physical defect, but she is driven by an inward paralysis to do nothing else.

A memorable scene was the first flashback of the play, where Geraldine Alexander gives an outstanding portrayal of a younger version of her character—and by the next scene quickly transforms into the fearful, gullible, older woman that is seen in the beginning. The raw dialogue, the satire and the physical darkness of the stage enable the audience to physically participate in a memory of the distant past. T-Belle and May are trapped in their own emotional wilderness as the choices of their own life haunt them—will they ever truly escape and redeem themselves?

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