The Skriker – The Royal Exchange, Manchester

The Skriker by Caryl Churchill is one of many performances as part of Manchester International Festival which took place a few weeks ago. The Skriker has been continued throughout July, until it closes on August 1, and is definitely anything but ordinary.

I’m not a regular theatre goer, musicals are more my thing; but when one of my old housemates suggested we took a trip to see this fantastical play, I wasn’t going to say no.

‘The Skriker’ is a mythical faerie who can only be described as a shapeshifter. Portrayed by Maxine Peake, ‘The Skriker’ can be a child, a homeless old woman or a death portent. Confusing it is, but Maxine Peake was so ridiculously fantastic, the ideology surrounding the Skriker suddenly made some sort of sense.

Having said that, The Skriker is highly obscure, and parts of the play were difficult to watch and understand. The Guardian have described the play as a darker Midsummer Night’s Dream, and despite racking my brain for days, I cannot come up with a more defined resemblance.

Maxine Peake carries the show and her energy and passion beams through her character. ‘The Skriker’ follows and haunts two teenage girls – Josie who was institutionalised for killing a baby, and Lily who is awaiting the birth of one.

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Directed by Sarah Frankcom, the play has clearly been revived to include a number of modern characteristics, with some references to popular culture, and costumes clearly likened to the current decade.

The performance takes you on a fractured journey through the modern world, whilst dipping into the historical underworld which lies beneath it. ‘The Skriker’ adopts a pun-filled poetic language within the underworld, and the riddled tongue is portrayed with little effort and such grace by Peake.

The performance is eerie yet fun, unearthly yet wholesome, and is the only reason I cannot come to a conclusion on this play.

The staging was unique, and the Royal Exchange was turned into an old and tired chamber filled with bare wooden tables, at which many of the audience sat.

The collision of the ancient fairy story and portrait of a fractured England is something I have never seen before, and I’m 90 percent sure I’ll never see again. Maxine Peake was absolutely incredible, and Laura Elsworthy as Josie and Juma Sharkah as Lily cannot be ignored, as both were equally brilliant. The ensemble of equally weird and wonderful ghost-like features who supported the leading ladies were brilliant, and very odd, and it’s definitely a performance I will remember for a long time.

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