Note: This review is from the 2017 Fringe

Brighton based 201 Dance Company, present Skin, a dance/theatre piece exploring one boy’s journey through gender transitioning.

Blending urban and contemporary styles and original music, award winning choreographer Andrea Walker’s seven dancers tell a story of family relationships, discovering identity and belonging.

The performance flows through different stages of the main protagonist’s life, danced by Michaela Cisarikova, exploring his relationships with his family and himself, fighting those inner demons. A young female child (Candy Dickinson), on stage throughout much, helps to explore the journey and transitioning, serving as a constant reminder of who he used be.

The opening scene reveals the conclusion to the piece: two androgynous bodies – one adult and a mirror image of a child – are dressed in trousers and a long top, with a beanie hat, and you assume they are male. It ends with them undressing to reveal the bodies that lie beneath: a female in a blue dress and an innocent child in a white dress.

A four-chorus ensemble interact with the main character throughout, an analogy for the torment he is suffering, trying to identify as somebody he is not.

It’s a dark and thought-provoking piece, with music used to heighten the tension and the inner demons being battled. Angry, frenetic movements and the skillful use of dark lighting only serve to accentuate these feelings of frustration and deep gloom.

It’s not all dark though, with the scene where the female child mimics the masculine stance and movements of her dad injecting an element of light relief.

With the final reveal scene, when the boy comes out as transgender to his mother, the backdrop lighting changes to a bright glow and their embrace is one of acceptance and love.

Whilst not all of the seated floor interactions work in this venue, with views obscured for those sitting further back, in the main, it’s a polished, thrilling and brave production. Cleverly using non-verbal communication and the medium of hip-hop and urban and contemporary dance, it’s a thought-provoking piece that explores a challenging subject with pure tenderness evoking feelings of shock, angst and finally peace and acceptance.