by Laura Kressly
Panic attacks can make you want to tear your skin off so the animal underneath has room to breathe. For the character Tom Kelsey embodies in this solo-performance, that feeling is a daily reality. In an attempt to live a ‘normal’ life and beat ‘the fog’, he agrees to a night out that should be a good laugh with the lads, but his poor mental health means that this is far from easy.
Frankly delivered, direct address is the primary mode of telling this story, with Kelsey also occasionally taking on other people in his life – we briefly meet mum, her boyfriend, and his mate. His physical and vocal versatility is showcased in these moments and helps break up what are otherwise lengthy monologues, though more of these interludes would be welcome. It’s only disappointing that the other men Kelsey includes are rather dim and demonstrated with working class accents, which are all the more obvious against Kelsey’s upper-middle class one. Another issue is a lack of trigger warnings for suicide and animal abuse.
There are also short, physical sequences during some of the transitions, though these are more often indicated with lighting and sound changes. With the stage bare other than a black-clothed table, the lighting enhances the nuance and mood that’s otherwise present in his text. The movement work doesn’t have much a chance to contribute due to its brevity.
Kelsey is a confident and versatile actor telling a story that digs into the lived experience of anxiety and the effects it can have on not just the person suffering, but those around them. It’s an impactful, startling piece – with an ending that reminds us just how important of an issue this is.
Tiger Under My Skin runs through 26 June in London.
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