The Skriker – Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

You don’t go to a Caryl Churchill for an easy ride. Her trademark is to use complex structure and dialogue that require an audience to work to follow plot and character.

Her 1994 piece The Skriker is perhaps one of her most surreal works. Outwardly it seems that a malevolent spirit is causing havoc with a pregnant woman. There’s also some sub plots regarding mental illness, parenting and possibly even child abuse. I say possibly because the plot is so complex it is never clear what the message here is.

It’s an ambitious play to pull off by any company, an even more ambitious feat for a youth theatre group to try. Such bravery should be applauded however the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds Young Company never quite pulls the challenge off.

Written originally as a three-hander, the Company has expanded the role of the title spirit into a multicharacter chorus. While this does give scope for some wonderful over the top creations it does make it even more difficult to follow Churchill’s rapid fire, free falling word association dialogue.

A mix of theatrical devices; movement, mime, mask work and circus also serve to distance engagement. Sometimes less is more and the expansion into a larger scale piece, while innovative, doesn’t serve the piece well.

Despite the confusion, however, there are some nice performances from the young company who admirably manage Churchill’s rapid fire dialogue. While some more focus on diction, character, and stagecraft would benefit, overall the company work well together.

The Young Company should be congratulated on their brave programming choice; lets hope that future productions are equally bold but ones that allow the obvious talent more opportunity to shine.

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