Sometimes you go to the theatre and you simply don’t ‘get’ what you’ve seen, and you come out feeling a little bit confused and bewildered…but when you start off with aliens in Kansas, you’re falling down a rabbit hole anyway. I didn’t know what to expect with Mysterious Skin – which is part of the King’s Head Theatre’s inaugural gay season – but, as I’ve come to find, nothing ever goes the way you expect it to, so it’s best to just go along with the ride.
Based on the novel by Scott Heim, the play follows various characters – eighteen year old Brian, New York hustler Neil and alien abductee Avalyn – as their lives collide and terrible truths are revealed.
I was down with the alien theme and I quite liked the characters too, finding myself drawn into their infatuation. The pace was subdued and slow so that the story could unfold in its own right instead of being delivered in a short burst of time. Brian and Avalyn had this weird chemistry that worked so well, drawing on the different lusts and needs that each had for the other. And by lust I don’t just mean in the carnal sense; there was a feeling of companionship and understanding that came across really naturally.
Then the play jumped into a completely new set of characters, so that you almost had to start again, building up the characters and situations from scratch. This initial jumping and the flashbacks that ensued was a little jarring, but it was an interesting format. Nick was fascinating as a character because I didn’t like him to begin with, but he grew, and you saw how much he became a product of a situation.
And there it is, the crux of the play: the situation. It took me until about half way through to see where everything was going and how it all fitted together, and at that point things took a darker turn. The play covered issues that walk the line of controversy and have the ability to make you uncomfortable, which created something for discussion, as all theatre should.
So Mysterious Skin was a mixed bag, but one that provided food for thought. It’s on until August 15 so go watch it at the King’s Head and share your thoughts with us.