An attempt by Drew Taylor-Wilson to be heard through the cacophony of Generation Z living, Thick Skin, Elastic Heart is a fusion of theatre and poetry. A prismatic spoken-word journey made up of seemingly unconnected short monologues, Thick Skin is a moving and absorbing testimony to poetry’s ability to make the unspoken realities of life loud enough for all to hear.
The main play is preceded by some readings from a guest Edinburgh-based poet. For the opening night, the guest is Catherine Wilson, who delights the audience with a sample of her poetry collection which includes – among other things – a love affair between a scientist and a Mars rover. It gets everyone in the mood for more of the same, but Thick Skin takes you aback with a frantic pace that couldn’t feel more different from Wilson’s more traditional prologue.
As the four-strong cast move across the multi-coloured floor, they immediately hypnotise you with a relentless outpouring of dialogue. Such is the brightness of the stage that you almost feel like Taylor-Wilson has aimed for make-believe. It is, however, anything but. This unbroken poetry, which seems to make the show last twice as long as it really is, can initially seem strange. By the end, however, it is accepted happily, and perfectly evokes the furious character of thinking and living in the modern world – with all of its problems and peculiarities. Covering themes including sexuality, body image and climate change, Thick Skin aims not so much to address any one thing in considerable detail, but rather to paint a picture of the many demands placed upon younger generations.
The performers are all fantastic, moving with and around one another as they powerfully deliver their own stories in turn. Sometimes they are individual, sometimes joint, and while others are loaded with comic relief others are purposefully more sincere. It can feel as though there is far more to be said, perhaps with more ferocity or determination behind the words, but these moments are so rare that the immersion in the spectacle is never broken.
Thick Skin is a unique and moving experience. It most certainly has points to prove and makes no attempt to hide this motive, but it is no wagging of the finger. It is a moving image of words, comedy and drama that has its own distinct voice for the digitally immersed society the actors hail from. The spoken word medium proves to be a touch of genius that gives this electrically-written play some moments to savour long after the show has ended.