WAR OF THE WORLDS
(New Diorama 2019)
Deft and ingenious … a fast and clever show
A smart, engagingly layered show that intelligently explores the faith people place in the media and the relationship between facts and the human need to tell stories. Lynn digs into the disinformation industry and the way in which click-driven ‘news’ content is created, the way conspiracy theories spread and mutate, and the effect they can have on people’s worldview and their politics; she also reworks Welles’ broadcast for the iPhone age, with people staring at their devices for updates as news of the invasion spreads.
What makes the show remarkable – big beyond its length, size and means – is the way it builds in the course of the evening, moving through concentric circles of doubt. Who is the real Welles on stage, when there are four pipe-puffing claimants, none of them spherical and not all of them male? Did the broadcast really provoke widespread hysteria? How can we know when our sources of information so often lie to us?
WHATS ON STAGE
The overall premise is just juicy – how far does a medium of communication affect our ability to believe a fabrication? If something is tweeted, or published on a seemingly real news site, or played out over the radio, or listened to on a podcast, why are we naturally inclined to trust its accuracy? The show may be more of a war of words than a war of the worlds but it's all the better for it – Liam Neeson can keep his hologram.
Cleverly-worked, entertaining and wholly enjoyable … a polished and inventive reworking of H.G. Wells' original concept providing an intelligent examination of how human beings can (sometimes) willingly set themselves up as 'victims' of fake news and potentially encourage exploitation.
LONDON THEATRE 1
Both enjoyable and thought-provoking. I’ve often clicked on a headline that screamed out about some exciting and highly improbable story. I consider myself fairly savvy about fake news and I have always believed the stories of mass hysteria and suicides when the play was originally broadcast, but it turns out that may not be as true as I thought and if a simple thing like that turns out to be false then what does that mean for everything else that is presented as news?
Joyous to behold … a theatrical experience of such bold acuteness and physical invention it leaves you constantly on the edge of your seat.
It’s a dangerous world out there but this engaging, entertaining and brilliant War of the Worlds couldn’t come at a better time as a reminder to practise caution and scepticism before buying into any hyped up scenario. Required viewing. Don’t miss!
Even the title both tells the truth but also slyly misleads. Because what is under scrutiny here is not just the broadcast and the myths surrounding it, but also the current info wars on the internet.
Tightly scripted by Isley Lynn (who wrote the excellent Skin a Cat) and devised by the company … There is a lot going on in 80 gripping minutes in which there are no less than four Orson Welles, and which constantly questions not just the nature of the truth but how some find the means to exploit it for personal or financial gain. Not to mention, how everyone is committed to their own particular version of the truth. That is very much the case within families where one person's truth is another's myth.
The evening delivers plenty of theatrical punches and plays lightly on the idea of theatre as a lie as it reminds how truth depends on who is telling it and why, how new technologies change the game, and how susceptible we remain to manipulation, particularly at times when the world seems an uncertain and frightening place.
This production could be Donald’s hallucinated fever dream version of A Christmas Carol; it’s a fast-paced tour of fake news of the past, present and future, guided by an otherworldly ensemble of mischievous shapeshifters.
The company, in collaboration with playwright Isley Lynn, do a brilliant job ... The ensemble’s synchronicity is mesmerising, it feels as if we are watching them interpret the source material in real time. One moment their bodies are tightly packed, amorphous, the next they snap apart, creating environments articulated with real specificity.
The show challenges us not to assume that the past was all ‘There is no news’ integrity while the present is all ‘Eating The Onion’ idiocy (we’ve all done it, you can only hope it was in private and not shared with all your friends, family and colleagues).
A truly alien presence is the small rectangular devices that appear with increasing frequency in the hands of the cast, shining bright light into their faces. It’s an invasion that goes unreported. Really, our relationship with the truth has always been defined by our means of accessing it and, right now, we’re living pure science fiction.
STAGE THE FINAL FRONTIER
A genuinely excellent play which brilliantly mucks about with objectivity, meaning and media.
Truth, in this play, is a slippery concept … this is a story about fictions, built on fictions, perpetuating fictions. It's simultaneously honest about its disputed source material, and ambiguous with what it all means; the play challenges us to be objective, when its story is anything but. And it ties all this - brilliantly - into an exploration of our post-truth, fake news culture. The play is built around a central conceit: the stories we tell ourselves are central to our worldview. What we choose to believe, where we choose to locate meaning, reinforces who we are, what we stand for. But when does fiction override, or even subjugate fact? When we choose to accept a story on whether it appeals to our instincts, prejudices or opinions, regardless of its basis in fact, how do we discern between truth and lies? When we have leaders and policies that galvanise through fear and divide via suspicion - and the play doesn't obfuscate over where it's aiming these particular thought grenades - how do we engage in meaningful social discourse? What starts off as an amusing amble into a seemingly innocent age of wholesome entertainment quickly becomes a clever discussion of how, where and why we should spend our trust and place our faith. Positioning the original radio play as an artistic factualising of fiction, Rhum and Clay follow the curve of this logic to arrive at the industrial fictionalising of fact.
It's also - and I cannot stress this enough - bags upon bags of fun … The performances are fluid, engaging and amusing, the writing is clear, surprising and resonant. There's plenty to enjoy here, in a show that is as inventive with its theatricality as it is with the notion of truth. The play exploits its dramatic medium as judiciously as Welles did with radio; the entire stage is active, and we never quite know what is coming next, or where from.
A smart, teasing homage to Orson Welles’s ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast and its legacy … as a smartly ambivalent homage to the golden age of the radio and the part myths play in our lives, it’s a winner.
THE PLAY’S THE THING
this is a smart, physical performance that provokes critical reflection on our need for good stories and the desire for them to be true. … its politics are undeniable. Its call for us to question the news and the stories we absorb, as well as criticising the fake news machine and the ad revenue behind it, combined with compelling staging and polished production values to make this a perfect play for our troubled times.
A fine new play invades the New Diorama Theatre. Isley Lynn’s The War of the Worlds takes a deeper look at the famous Orson Welles radio broadcast from 1938 and connects it to what’s happening in the world 80 years later … a gripping edge-of-your-seat atmosphere throughout.
THE SPY IN THE STALLS
An unexpectedly insightful way of exploring contemporary concerns about fake news and political paranoia. Rhum and Clay have successfully given an oft-told story a new sense of relevance … entertaining, insightful, and above all an effective immersion into a sinister and intriguing world – one that is far closer than we think.
A YOUNGER THEATRE
Slick and otherworldly … As long as there continues to be media, The War of the Worlds will continue to be relevant reminding us all of how we too can be vulnerable to false information.
Rhum and Clay’s War of the Worlds weaves in and out of different time frames and narratives as if moving the dial on a radio – it’s atmospheric, physical, exciting and disorienting.
BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL
The way that the show subverts expectations and brings into focus the importance of telling people’s own stories – as opposed to ‘what sells’ – is as refreshing as it is timely.
THE LIVE REVIEW
You would think a play about a radio broadcast and alien invasion in a small town in the US is irrelevant to our life and times but the play manages to do a fantastic job of bringing this world close to 2019 and our time of fake news, social media and information wars. The medium may have evolved from radio to blogs and podcasting but the basic premise remains the same – information is power and whoever controls the dissemination of information has power. … an effortless watch as well as being a thought provoking one.
ONCE A WEEK THEATRE
Trust me, it’s no fake news to say that you should see this show.
CAMDEN NEW JOURNAL
Isley Lynn’s play is a clever exploration of the enduring fascination of sci-fi, conspiracy theories and the thin line between imagination and reality. It’s also a salutary warning against the ubiquity of fake news.
The parallels between HG Wells’ classic, Welles’ thrilling adaption and new media are perceptively teased out.
(North Wall 2019)
OXFORD MAIL & YORK PRESS
Fact collides with fiction – and we’re never sure which is which – in Rhum & Clay’s bold riff on the classic HG Wells tale The War of the Worlds … This beautifully composed production, featuring just four actors, takes us from that dramatic broadcast to the present day, on the trail of a mystery which divided a family, all dated back to the fateful broadcast. What unfurls is a series of Russian doll-like shells of truths and lies stretching back into time and brought into sharp focus into the present day – with Trump, ‘fake news’ and conspiracy theories. Mona Goodwin, Julian Spooner, Amalia Vitale and Matthew Wells take on all roles in a kinetic display which leaves us reeling. Delivery is punchy and movement beautifully choreographed with dancers’ grace. It is fast-paced and noisy, yet interspersed with moments of uneasy calm and realisation. It’s funny and unsettling and inevitably leaves us questioning our own gullibility. A triumph then, and well worth seeing. Believe me!
SKIN A CAT
(Britomart Productions - Burton Taylor Studio, Feb 2019)
In the era of sex-positive successes such as the most recent Netflix obsession Sex Education, we might feel as though our yearnings for more diverse narratives about sex have been fully satisfied. Britomart Productions’ performance of Skin a Cat by Isley Lynn proves otherwise … However, the outcome is entirely new, and the production dextrously and humorously articulates all the nuances of a far more complicated sexual awakening than the one we bargained for … Low and West’s production, amidst much hilarity, cuts right through to the most vulnerable of feelings, and asks us to rethink the ways we contort ourselves to fit the simplistic sexual narratives we have been ingesting for so long. - Lucy Mcilgorm
(Regional tour 2018)
Crikey. This is good. Skin A Cat is an aggressively honest, often hilarious, sometimes shocking look at sex. ... Sometimes there is a play written that you have to take a moment with, to judge as theatrical perfection. This is Skin A Cat, with brilliant work from writer Isley Lynn. Bold, compelling and relevant, her script, with a note telling us this is "unashamedly autobiographical", feels profoundly of-the-moment. It is stingingly funny, with several moments that ring so true to my experience of growing up that it was unnerving. Sex is hard, and art, culture and society rarely reflect this. This central truth gives the writing its brilliance, with the production built around it enhancing its deeply human story. ... As brazenly honest as Lynn's script is, it is enhanced by an outstanding Lydia Larson. Alana is brisk, unapproachable, warm, friendly, exposed, closed off; a series of juxtapositions as we all are and Larson is never less than fantastic here. ... Skin A Cat is as brutal as it is necessary, an 80 minute heart-breaking, life-affirming, nerve-shredding drama. I feel this play needs the widest, largest platform for audiences to see it, as it exposes a side of sex rarely portrayed. For Lynn's writing and Larson's performance, this a production you have to seek out. The play travels to the Edinburgh Fringe in a month and would be a deserved breakout hit there. - Russell Bailey
Every individual would be instantly struck by the power of Lynn’s dialogue, such is her understanding of real problems and real-life language ... The kind of side-splitting laughter that brings tears to the eyes. The kind of belly laughter that has us gasping for breath. The kind of infectious laughter that bellows through the production, leaving emotionally exhausted spectators in its wake. Because as well as intense, purposeful and poignant, Lynn’s writing is also very, very funny. It’s that precisely balanced. But it’s not enough to have a well-written piece of comedy. Skin A Cat requires an expert actor who can judge the room and deliver her part with microscopic precision. Enter Larson. She speaks quickly, but her stream of consciousness is so well phrased and nuanced that every inflection is picked up on, every tiny detail of Lynn’s complex script is given the emphasis it deserves ... Skin A Cat is a play about a manageable condition. It’s a play about the world starting, not ending. It’s laughter and sorrow wrapped up in the same set of tears. And it’s a pivotal piece of contemporary theatre. - Daniel Perks
Coming to the Edinburgh Fringe after opening in London, Isley Lynn’s witty, tender play Skin a Cat is the story of a body that rebels against its owner. Alana has vaginismus, a condition that makes any kind of vaginal penetration almost impossible, but both she and her male partners are determined to overcome it. Pretty much since its beginnings, people have been keen to paint the Fringe as a home of fevered wall-to-wall nudity, but what’s impressive about this play is how its awkward, vivid sex scenes rely on less intimate body parts: a fist stands in for a penis, enmeshed fingers for a vulva. It’s both effective and fitting for a performance that focuses on Alana’s psychological distress and recovery, rather than the physical realities of her body.
- Alice Saville
Blood, bodies and boyfriends: ‘Skin A Cat’ is a coming-of-age play exploring the complexities of female sexuality and the social stigmas surrounding vaginismus. The writing is subtle and evocative, taking us on an intimate journey through Alana’s life and her relationship with men. From tampon anxieties to seductive olive eating, this piece is funny, heartwarming and painfully relatable, as writer Isley Lynn moves us from moments of clumsy innocence to intense emotion within seconds. The direction is slick and fast-paced with boldly choreographed, abstract sex scenes, while skilful multi-rolling from two other actors is particularly effective in depicting Alana’s world. - Ella Dorman-Gajic
Tenderly funny yet unafraid to venture into the darker corners of loneliness, Skin a Cat is a quiet revelation in its depiction of our society's obsession with penetration and its pathologising of alternative forms of sexual intimacy. When the play begins, the audience is made to believe that there is only one happy ending available to Alana, and Skin a Cat's radical subversion of this expectation is a glorious, hopeful and eye-opening experience. - Deborah Chu
Although first performed 2016, the honesty with which Skin a Cat discusses problems that we girls hide even from our best friends is the biggest step forward I’ve seen this August. ... And although at the beginning we believe there is only one happy ending for Alana – a cure for vaginismus needs to be found – the jewel of the show is the ending, which embraces the differences in sexual experiences. Finally, it only matters whether the people involved enjoy the act – not what the society thinks of it. ... Shows like Skin a Cat are why Fringe festivals exist. ... It’s a mind-opener, a conversation-opener – and, in many respects, a necessity. - Žad Novak
What is sex, exactly? What “counts” as sex? It’s the question that haunts Alana (a magnetic Lydia Larson) throughout Skin a Cat, Isley Lynn’s intensely intimate coming-of-age narrative ... absolutely vital, the type of play I needed to see when I was 15. - Ava Wong Davies
It might sound rather niche, targeted at an exclusively young female-bodied audience, but that’s not the case at all – in the performance I saw there were audience members of all ages and backgrounds clearly enjoying the show. The strength of Skin A Cat is its ability to make the story of one girl’s experience of Vaginismus become something we can all relate to – the struggle for self-acceptance and self determination.
- Erin Hutching
(Bunker Theatre 2016)
OFF WEST END AWARD NOMINATED: BEST NEW PLAY, MOST PROMISING NEW PLAYWRIGHT, BEST DIRECTION, BEST FEMALE LEAD
“Utterly radical” - Stewart Pringle
This endearing drama about a woman who has vaginismus – played brilliantly by Lydia Larson – suggests its writer, Isley Lynn, could be rising star … Beginning with Alana’s first period and quickly moving on to to teenage fumblings, this initially looks as if it’s just another coming-of-age tale, albeit one written with considerable charm and a laugh-out-loud comic edge. But there is something more interesting lurking in this brave, largely autobiographical story as it becomes clear that Alana has vaginismus, a common but rarely talked about psychosexual disorder in which the muscles spasm during penetrative sex. The piece has an endearing unfettered honesty and it benefits enormously from a brilliantly judged, personable central performance from Lydia Larson, who ensures that Alana’s sexual odyssey always keeps the attention. Even better, the play swerves unexpectedly and avoids becoming an issue piece, becoming an altogether more interesting meditation on difference and the crushing pressure to be what is considered normal in a highly sexualised culture. - Lyn Gardner
A Younger Theatre
Skin A Cat should be compulsory viewing for anyone under 25. Scratch that, it should be compulsory viewing for everyone. A hysterically funny, warm-hearted, autobiographical three-hander about one girl’s struggle to understand her own body, Isley Lynn’s play educates as much as it entertains. … Lynn’s dialogue plots a precarious path between squeamishness and solemnity, embracing a no-frills frankness that provides a freedom to both laugh and learn. Skin A Cat is amusing and arresting for the same reason: it is fundamentally honest, managing to be piercingly emotionally articulate without saying all that much at all. Few plays capture the excitement and the frustration of blossoming teenage sexuality so accurately. … It’s modest, exquisite theatre. But a regulation plea for openness, honesty and patience in sex is not the only undercurrent of Lynn’s play. In its refusal to allow a conventional resolution, and instead emphasising the importance of enjoying life on one’s own terms, of embracing the psychological nuances and biological quirks that make us all human, Skin A Cat transcends its cliché. … a stylish, sympathetic staging of some seriously important new writing.
- Fergus Morgan
Watching Isley Lynn’s funny and insightful Skin a Cat, it’s striking how few about the female experience come readily to mind, let alone those which speak in frank, balanced and intimate terms about women’s sexuality … Alana is one of those rare well-written female characters whose inner pain is clearly communicated to the audience, despite it being carefully concealed to those around her in the world of the play … Skin a Cat walks the fine line between the personal and the puerile with ease. It’s confessional but not campaigning, whilst doing much to illuminate a little-known and little understood condition. In fact, it’s much more of a plea for acceptance and recognition that in our sexuality – as with the rest of our existence – we are not all the same. … Skin a Cat is a smart, fun and thought-provoking rummage around a rarely tackled subject. - Sally Hales
Just Opened London
The play transfers from the VAULT Festival where its sell-out run saw award-winning young playwright Isley Lynn emerge as a shining theatre talent. Approaching the covert subject of sexual discovery and dysfunction with unparalleled relevance, levity and poignance, the narrative boldly recognises a far too neglected topic. … playwright Lynn’s irreverent voice champions collective experience to question the meaning of womanhood. Throughout the play layers of thought are stripped back delving into the psychological indents that make us who we are. Lynn’s writing is witty, sharp and perspicacious - Charlotte Brohier
Mouthy Women Project
I walked out with the distinct sense that I had just witnessed one of the most honest pieces of art I had ever seen. … Isley’s writing is so honest, vulnerable, sensitive and laugh out loud funny that you can’t help but watch the play and join the main character on a journey of radical self-acceptance. The play is underlined by a bold, comforting, and universal truth: we all have hang ups we need to accept about ourselves, and life gets a hell of a lot easier (and funnier) once you do just that. - Rosie Spinks
Isley Lynn manages what so many fail to do, creating something that is honest and relatable without becoming cliched in her depiction of female sexual experiences. Skin a Cat is hilarious, the humour quick and biting as we move through the protagonist’s life one sexual mishap at a time … wholly uplifting
- Molly Lempriere
Beyond its silly and plentiful humour is a genuinely moving and effortlessly charming production … Lynn deliberately blurs the line between the clinical and the erotic … Wise and educational and funny, it really hits the spot. - Tim Bano
Terrific performances - Richard Lambert
The Peg Review
Sensitive, witty and touching … like nothing you’ve seen before - Charlotte Pegram
Love London Love Culture
A cracker of a play - Emma Clarendon
London City Nights
Strong on kindness, peppered with (refreshingly unflinching) anatomical and sexual detail and pretty goddamn funny to boot … Skin a Cat is definitely the most vagina-y (if I was a twat, I'd say yonic) play I've ever seen - and all credit to it for being so. As well as teaching me about vaginismus (I now realise I have encountered in a past partner and didn't know what it was), there's a casual yet forthright feminism baked into every character interaction and red-faced confession. … Our culture cloaks vaginas in mystery and shame: to the point where our politicians hesitate to even say the word 'tampon'. Plays like this function as a rolling of the eyes and a crucial exhortation to grow the hell up. Recommended.
London Theatre 1
Ninety minutes of theatrical gold dust … I must admit I never thought I’d laugh out loud at an intimate female examination – but laugh out loud I certainly did! … it’s a gem of a play. The writing by Isley Lynn is funny and poignant – sometimes in the same sentence. - Alan Fitter
West End Wilma
The writer, Isley Lynn, has written a brilliant, thought provoking and funny play. She is definitely a talented writer who, on the evidence of this play, is really going places - David Monteith-Hodge
Live Theatre UK
This is a play that would project positive attitudes in classrooms; a play that should tour around schools nationwide. - Madhia Hussain
With astonishing perception, truthfulness, daring and elegant simplicity in its execution, this drama plunges into the ‘core’ of what it is to be a woman, utterly captivating its audience … the play’s appeal is wider that its immediate content might suggest: it is an exploration of human identity at a very deep level. It is a very brave and clearly written piece - Julian Eaves
Last Minute Theatre Tickets
The show is definitely unforgettable, and I’m happy to say, for ALL the right reasons. Running just short of 1 hour 30 minutes, this exciting piece of new theatre tells a story that isn’t currently being told ... The play is fast-paced, packed with plenty of one-liners and great humour juxtaposed with deep, emotional empowering text that promotes a powerful message about individuality and self-acceptance. The show is a pure joy to watch, Isley Lynn has crafted a piece that is brutally honest, frank and informative. The show looks at the isolating condition of Vaginismus … A serious subject that Lynn has tackled with warmth, comedy, and emotional realness. The condition may be the subject of the play, however, the wider themes and messages are about acceptance, especially of our own bodies, about embracing difference and not being ashamed of pleasure. A message that needs to be heard and should be taught at school. When it comes to our bodies normal isn’t normal - Faye Stockley
Ginger Wigs and Strolling Man
Hilarious yet poignant … This was a really great night of theatre
Isley Lynn’s script perfectly captures the teen angst of sexual awakening, full of laughs that temper the discomfort. … it soars - Rob Warren
The hour and a half flew by, and it was the best play I’ve seen for many months. - Michael Holland
What's On Stage
Tender, intimate and frank … Lynn's is a campaigning play: one that pushes back against a euphemistic culture and prescriptive sex education. Its kickback against normative notions of sex is a liberating thing.
- Matt Trueman
Fairy Powered Productions
The play veers from fantastic physical comedy to heart-breaking despair without warning … Skin A Cat is a great play – sweet, filthy, thought-provoking and very, very funny. This is a very promising start at this exciting new venue. Go and see this play – and take your teenage sons and daughters along – this is the sort of sex education they should be getting in school. - Claire Roderick
This is a 90-minute three-hander which is alternately sad, enlightening and very, very funny. … That a play about sexual embarrassment and confusion should be so comfortable – and even comforting – to watch is down to a combination of the forthright but sensitive writing and a director, Blythe Stewart, who understands that the suggestion of sexuality is more powerful than its explicit portrayal and that minimal clothing will serve where nudity would distract. - Chris Abbott
A sharply funny, sad and ambitious look at sexual awakening, and what it means to have a 'normal' sex life. Which, as we all know, doesn't actually mean anything. - Stevie Martin
Amid the laughs, the cringing details and the unbridled honesty, there’s also a lot of sadness just under the surface of this comedy. … Skin a Cat is enjoyable not just because of its refreshing candour, but also because it takes a stand against the robotisation of sexual experience: in world where many young teens get their first ideas about sex from porn, it argues passionately that such images create a picture of the “normal” which is oppressive and inhumane. Instead, Lynn argues that each individual should be allowed, encouraged even, to find their own normal, to discover what works for them. At its best, her play advocates frankness, personalised satisfaction and TLC against the dominance of porn images and social conventions … At its centre is a ragged cry against the worst excesses of a sexualised, but unerotic, culture. - Aleks Sierz
The Culture Trip
Kicking things off with a bang at London’s newest theatre is Isley Lynn’s brutally honest exploration of female anatomy and psychosexual disorder. Oftentimes troubling, but blisteringly funny, Skin a Cat masterfully addresses the trauma, both mental and physical, experienced by its central character, whose parts, try as she might, just don’t seem to work as others’ do. All but resigned to her perpetual state of virginity (vaginally, at any rate) but constantly struggling against the social pressures this entails, this semi-autobiographical tale is a brave, bold, endearing piece of experimental theatre. Standout performances all around make this one of the must-see plays of the moment. - Harriet Clugston
A wonderfully dry, witty and poignant play about a girl who can’t have sex …‘GO SEE THIS!’ - Tara Lepore
(VAULT festival 2016)
WINNER: PICK OF THE YEAR
"Funny and heart-breaking ... Explores a young woman’s struggle with her sexuality with excruciating detail, daring to say the unsayable. Brimming with great scenes and brilliantly complex characters, this is a powerful and transgressive play." - Leo Butler
"Where stories about sexual liberation go from 0 to 10 really quickly, where characters are either one extreme or its other, Isley's play is rare: A human story firmly in the middle, that presents a physical, detailed, touching, and entirely new light on the female sexual organ and the complexities of having one." - Inua Ellams
Surprisingly, given this sensitive subject matter, Skin a Cat is an uproariously funny story about one woman’s search for sexual fulfilment ... Lynn’s script is perfectly nuanced, sweeping from hilarious physical comedy that reminds how undignified and silly sex can be (particularly if you’re a woman) to more seriously and poignant moments as the sweet but confused Alana slowly learns to come to terms with her condition. Larson is innocently charming in this pertinent story which transcends being gratuitous but rather allows the audience to follow and share in a traumatic but also uplifting story of sexual discovery against the odds. - Lettie Mckie
Verdict: Frank, fresh, funny and disarmingly candid play about one woman’s sexual identity
Isley Lynn’s frank and funny new play Skin a Cat explores how upsetting and isolating it can be when something which gives most people pleasure is a source of pain and anxiety ... Lynn’s play is eloquent and insightful about the pressures people place on themselves, not just to have lost their virginity by a certain age, but also to conform in other ways when it comes to sexual experience. Frequently hilarious, it’s also refreshingly honest and open in its discussion of menstruation, masturbation, oral and anal sex, and might well be the smartest, sharpest piece about female sexual identity since Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Fleabag ... there’s something so rousing and refreshing about the whole production; this is bold and genuinely exciting new writing. - Natasha Tripney
While the play is very frank in its discussion and depiction of sex, it is never 'titillating' and always emotionally truthful. While scanning the audience at certain points, it was good to see both men and women laugh and make noises of recognition as they recalled sex and 'those conversations' as they're really like, rather than how they're depicted on TV or on the movies. It is this attention to detail in her characters and their world that makes her writing so rich and her characters so easy to identify with. I'm hesitant to make comparisons to other works of 'art' or media, but if I had to, in terms of tone and candour, then Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, Skins, Teeth, Mark O'Brien's The Sessions and Judy Blume's canon springs to mind. - Michael Davis
Views From The Gods
There's an overwhelming sense of honesty throughout the dialogue, with visceral, almost brutal and so very relatable descriptions ... It's a hugely relatable and refreshingly honest piece which bravely tackles sexual dysfunction with both sensitivity and humour.
The Play's The Thing
Refreshingly frank, honest writing. Theatre (and Western culture) doesn’t shy away from heteronormative sex, but a main character that hates it due to a psychosexual disorder is most rare indeed. ... Lynn’s gift for dialogue and detailed characters within a cleverly framed style shines here, and is generally well supported by director Blythe Stewart ... Lynn and Stewart use humour delightfully and liberally in both the writing and staging. Sex, attempted sex and orgasms hilariously abound, along with poignancy, tenderness and dogged desperation. It’s a beautiful balance. ... Skin A Cat evokes belly laughs and empathy, nostalgia and wonder. Though it raises awareness of a psychosexual condition, Lynn manages to not make this an “awareness” play. Instead, it’s a story about growing up, loving yourself and making friends with your body’s quirks. Excellent writing and committed performances in Skin A Cat prove Isley Lynn and the cast are ones to watch.
- Laura Kressly
Stuff I've Seen
Skin A Cat skilfully avoids the conventional trappings of the sex comedy genre – the nude-tone unsexy underwear and plain duvet bed set, plus the stylised portrayal of sexual sequences means this never tips over into spectacle or squalor. This is not about titillation, humiliation, or tired battle-of-the-sexes gags. This is about humans, and connection. How sexuality doesn’t mean jumping through hoops, but being who you are ... Eventually the world will understand that there are as many sexualities as there are individuals, and we’re starting to see that shift. Plays like this can help push that understanding forward and in the words of Alana, that’s “fucking brilliant”. - Stephanie Gunner
I had no idea I’d be in for an intensely emotional, funny, visceral, and lump-in-the-back-of-the-throat-for-two-hours kind of experience. A feminist coming of age tale, Skin of a Cat had me emotionally invested from the very first scene - Rosie J. Spinks
(Bute Theatre / Gate Theatre 2018)
There aren’t many writers who conjure stories the way Isley Lynn can. Her innate instinct for achingly human characters in situations rarely – if ever – seen on stage sets her well apart from most young playwrights. Her oeuvre includes Skin a Cat, a hilarious and necessary story of a young woman navigating dating and sex whilst unable to be vaginally penetrated, and Tether, the journey of a blind woman and her guide training for a marathon. These intimate stories leave a huge impact when set on stage, their echoes long reverberating with her audiences. Albatross is the same, but takes a rather different narrative approach to her character-driven narratives. The collage of her unique stories are here pared down to moments where well intentioned, liberal people make all sorts of infuriating assumptions about those less fortunate. . . . ‘Instead of the cross, the Albatross about my neck was hung.’ We all have our burdens, and us liberal, middle class, cultural elite are quick to try to rescue those that don’t need or want to be saved. Lynn’s characters draw attention to this often ignored albatross that many of us wear, knowingly or not' - Laura Kressly, The Play's The Thing
(Lichtspielklub Short Film Festival, Berlin 2018 / Cork Film Festival 2017 / Smalls Film Festival 2017 / Sydney Film Festival 2017 / Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017)
The beauty of this simple, but effective drama lies in how its central conflict slowly unfolds through a conversation between a female jogger and a man walking his dog. The shared traumatic incident that sends these two into an emotional tailspin after seeing each other again is never explicitly mentioned, but rather it is implied through the developing discomfort in their interaction. When the protagonists have a chance meeting at the beach one cold afternoon, it is unclear how they know each other. What seems like running into someone after an awkward hook-up turns into something much more substantial and sour, keeping the viewer guessing at first, not letting them off the hook the moment it becomes clear how these two are connected. The dialogue never becomes too obvious and leaves as much between the lines as it expresses in words. Director Aurora Fearnley approaches her subject and characters with a sensitive, unagitated tone that keeps its composure even when the emotions are on the brink of overheating. Aside from the intelligent, restrained script by writer Isley Lynn, the fragile emotional balance is also reflected in the story’s staging. ... One of the most interesting things about the film is how the theme of ‘survivor’ is depicted in the unfolding confrontation. With #MeToo and Time’s Up growing stronger every day, the number of stories being told about sexual aggression on the one hand and female empowerment on the other, will only increase and every storyteller will find her (or his) own way to deal with the subject. Struck doesn’t belittle the woman’s horrific experience, but director Aurora Fearnley and writer Isley Lynn refuse to turn her into a victim. While it may seem odd that the man becomes this frustrated with the woman for returning to where it all happened, his condescension turns out to be rooted in his own open wound, reeling from what the director describes as “a new wave of films exploring the female gaze on conflicted modern masculinity.” Turning the story of their shared experience into a two-hander doesn’t so much take the focus off from the woman’s physical and mental pain, but by emphasizing with the broken construct of the “savior,” it adds an unusual angle to a topic that has many ugly faces.
- GEORG CSARMANN, Short Of The Week
(Bechdel Testing Life, Bunker Theatre 2017)
THE PLAY'S THE THING
...the most successful work of the event, Alginate by Isley Lynn. The poignant story of a woman who commissioned an artist to make a sculpture of her breasts before a double mastectomy moves in its positivity and emotional restraint.
Lynn’s trademark is characters dealing with totally personal inner struggles. They shine in the short play format, and her story is effectively unresolved. Holly Augustine and Lucy Thackeray both show placid surfaces with tumultuous cores that drive the story forward. Their conviction, combined with Lynn’s quietly tragic storytelling, is thoroughly compelling. - Laura Kressly
What I loved about the piece, along with the lyrical dialogue, was that the nudity was not sexualised. They were just breasts which, as the play progressed, took on more significance as breasts that were about to be cut off. Women’s bodies are so rarely allowed to be just bodies onstage and Lynn’s piece achieved this.
- Hannah Greenstreet
(Theatre503 / Arcola / Gate Theatre 2014)
The Evening Standard
The first play offered by director Alex Crampton, Sleight of Hand from Royal Court Young Writers’ Programme graduate Isley Lynn, is also the most accomplished, craftily insinuating that every member of society, no matter what they do, could potentially have a role to play in stopping the mutilation of vulnerable young women. We hear feisty, interlinking monologues from a teacher, an air hostess, an ice cream van man and a postwoman; they have an uneasy feeling that something isn’t right but will they have the courage to speak up in time? - Fiona Mountford
Sleight of Hand by Isley Lynn darkens subtly, interweaving monologues by chatty but increasingly uneasy Brits ... whose glimpses of an unhappy primary school girl the audience gradually pieces together. - Kate Bassett
Piercingly eloquent ... A profoundly upsetting evening but one which, as with all good art, gives one at least the consolation of enhanced clarity as it explores this barbarous ritual from various angles ... Let's not mince words: FGM is the attempted lobotomy of the victim's sexual nature – a fact unforgettably brought home here.
- Paul Taylor
Little Stitches, however, does not fail to entertain. The opening play features five individuals who each encounter FGM in some distant way through their different lines of work. The characterisations are rich and varied, each complementing the other as they fluently dip in and out of rapid, crisp monologues. The clarity and diversity of speech is a real marvel to behold ... The style of the opening play is reminiscent of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad and serves to give a comedic undertone that is open and familiar, jarring spectacularly with the presence of FGM. - Alex Finch
The first play, ‘Sleight of Hand’ by Isley Lynn, is the strongest. It presents four characters ... all of whom ignore odd things they’ve noticed about a young girl in their neighbourhood. - Daisy Bowie-Sell
The Arts Desk
The first two plays map out a verbal panorama of a community questioning when to be suspicious and how and when to engage, and both works provide an ever-growing sense of how women anticipate the act of FGM and might then deal with the aftermath. - Naima Khan
Sleight of Hand asks if not knowing or understanding enough is an excuse for turning a blind eye.
- Liam Fleming
Isley Lynn manages to achieve a sickening acceleration towards the inevitable in a narrative to which we know the end before the beginning, as the voices of five members of the public who touch the life of an unhappy child are interwoven to expose their well-meaning failure to intervene. Lynn’s SLEIGHT OF HAND is the most accomplished of the plays, but each contributes to giving a necessary voice to victims of a crime that seems to be thriving – in part – on silence. - Sophie Scott
There Ought To Be Clowns
Alex Crampton ingeniously directs a company of five in a way which never preaches yet still asks its questions in a searching enough manner that means one doesn’t get off the hook that easily. Isley Lynn’s opening Sleight of Hand is the most effective of the pieces in that respect, combining five monologues from different members of society on the periphery of FGM, each suspecting that something isn’t quite right but unsure about what if anything they might be able to do. From teachers to ice-cream vendors, a slyly comic tone seduces us in and then leaves us disarmed as the reality of what these women are forced to endure becomes apparent.
Multi-layered, thought-provoking and for the most part elegantly simple, engaging and entertaining: in that sense the production is subtly spectacular. By humanising the story and making it less about “us” and “them”, we obtain a deeper understanding of what drives a practice few can comprehend. - Dena Kirpalani
An example of the power of theatre and how it can ‘open doors’ for discussions in communities that are very private. - Verity Healey
Theatre full stop
The jigsaw puzzle-esque manner of the monologues are endearing, but become hard hitting once all of the monologue pieces join together and become more in sync with one another, creating a complete picture of a young girls [sic] harrowing experiences. - Lucy Basaba
A Younger Theatre
It’s a fascinatingly clever piece that demonstrates how invisible FGM can be unless you can see the whole picture. As Stephanie Yamson’s wonderfully likeable postwoman, proud of her ability with sleight of hand, says, it can be “right in front of your eyes, and you still don’t see it.” - Briony Rawle
(Underbelly - Big Belly, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015)
TOP TEN SHOWS OF 2015
The Play's The Thing
Refreshingly unromantic and driven by dialogue and characterisation. This is a simple and powerful piece by a promising young writer set in a world rarely considered by non-disabled people. - Laura Kressly
A joy to experience - Lewis Porteous
Taut, nuanced piece exploring trust, ambition and the relationship between a runner and her guide ... Lynn’s play is one of clarity and focus. ... it’s refreshing to see a piece which is very much about trust and the nuances of friendship between a man and a woman – Natasha Tripney
“Cutting edge new writing”
The overriding sensation of watching Tether is one of physical tension – the lactic tug of tired limbs, of plastic cutting into wrists, of breath and choppy momentum, of every security in the next step being an illusion, but surging forward, urgent, regardless. - David Ralf
The Play's The Thing UK
Playwright Isley Lynn’s script is some of the best new writing I’ve seen in a long time. The characters are intricately detailed and exquisitely sculpted with enough contrasting goals to create natural dramatic conflict without excess ... This is an unmissable new play from a Royal Court graduate that offers insight into a world rarely considered before the London Paralympics 2012. It is a great step towards increasing the visibility of disabled performers and deserves further attention beyond Edinburgh Fringe. - Laura Kressly
Edinburgh Festivals Magazine
Full of joy, with a witty and invigorating script, Tether is an uplifting tale that will have you looking for your running shoes as soon as you leave the theatre. A feel-good play that will certainly brighten your day.
– Mariana Mercado
Ed Fringe Review
Understated but powerful, Tether, a new piece of writing by Isley Lynn, is a fresh and compelling exploration of ambition, dependence and trust. … its power quietly sinks in in the show’s aftermath, long after the pair have run their final race. Lynn’s lightness of touch belies the skilfulness of her writing in dealing so succinctly and movingly with serious themes without resorting to sentimentality – Stasia Carver
Pocket Size Theatre
Writer Isley Lynn has clearly done extensive research into the sport and has dug deep into the world of Paralympic athletes and in doing so, has created an authentic and honest script. - Andy Edmeads
Whilst Isley Lynn's Tether fuels excitement for next summer, her script refreshingly brings with it an emphasis on the personal side to our hopefuls for the Games in 2016 ... This inspirational story reminds us of the extraordinary efforts disabled athletes go through. - Dan Parker
A welcome addition to the sports drama genre that’s surprisingly unsentimental. … The ending is pleasantly realistic with no overly dramatic, drawn out battle to the finish line. Tether is about learning to accept that you’ll never fulfil your biggest ambitions no matter how hard you try as much as it is about persevering and staying determined. It’s a refreshing message in a genre that often suggests that self-belief is the answer to everything and will always guarantee success. - Amy Wong
A compelling and fast paced script ... illuminates a world few of will have experience of [sic] through an intensely intimate and personal story. - Kate Saffin
Compelling … This is a play which speaks of emotional truth and of well-researched insight into a unique experience - David Pollock
In Hollywood's hands Tether could so easily be an over-sentimental tale of self-sacrifice, but Isley Lynn's script focusses instead on the raw ambition of competitive athletes. - Rowena McIntosh
There aren't many Fringe shows willing to tackle disability. It's even rarer they are willing to put it in such a positive, non-patronising light. - Barry Gordon
Isley Lynn’s play, Tether, which explored the relationship between a female athlete and her coach, was similarly refreshing in its depiction of a friendship entirely fuelled by the characters’ mutual love of their chosen sport and their understanding of each other’s thirst for success. - Natasha Tripney
(Tristan Bates Theatre 2013)
The London Stage
The most impressive part of this play is its script. It’s not just powerful but it’s incandescent. There is a profound intensity... that truly keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through. Sensitively written. Rambunctiously performed. Exemplary theatre at its best.
What's Peen Seen
The true star of the show is Isley Lynn’s script. It is staggeringly powerful, emotionally frank and does justice to a complex issue. Lean is an important play, and this is a brilliant production of it. Lynn has a bright future ahead. - Ed Theakston
The New Current
"Lean" is a production that doesn't rest easy with you afterwards and for the past 12 hours I have been thinking of nothing else.
Then I realised it wasn’t the play that is wrong, it was me and my preconceptions and I realised how clever this production is and how brilliantly it has been written and performed. - Rhiannon Lawson
Plays to See
Isley Lynn’s two-hander play is engaging, challenging and at times funny. - Sophie Nevrkla
The play stays with you when you leave - unsurprisingly. In this case, this is no bad thing.
A monumental success... I'd highly recommend this moving and important production. - Krista Lahey-James
A tense reflection on our relationship with food, with each other and with Countdown. Lynn is a graduate of the Royal Court Young Writers Programme and tackles tough issues in as head-on a manner as her fellow graduate, Polly Stenham. Lean manages to be both informative and sensitive, as well as gradually unravelling an unexpected twist. - Lauren Paxman
Not so much an ode to love as a redemptive force but a battle cry for it. - Stephanie Gunner
Modern in feel and classical in structure, with tragedy at the heart of a compelling drama.
- Christopher Adams
Lean is the very cleverly written first play by Isley Lynn. Tackling an issue as sensitive as Anorexia was never going to be easy, but the play unfolds effortlessly with the illness at it's epicentre. - Georgina Spenceley
Fresh… fascinating… boldly original – Soho Theatre
Unusual and striking – Royal Court Theatre
Brave, intelligent new writing by an exciting talent - Tristan Bates Theatre
It tackles an important issue with sensitivity and dramatic power – Paines Plough
If you want to know what the future of British Theatre looks like, you have to see this show - Kayo Chingonyi
Utterly revolutionary... a paradigm shift in contemporary writing - Adam Cunis
I cannot recommend it highly enough; clever, touching, obscenely intimate, crushingly honest.
- Dashiel Munding
The best and most powerful thing I've seen in 2013 - Jennifer Ball
Unashamedly frank about the motivating forces and consequences of anorexia – Henry Morris
Visceral, exciting, unlike any other new writing I've seen. Electrifying performances. Go! - Sarah Kosar
This play is a tour de force for two actors. I suppose there are still people around who think anorexia is a posh name for nothing very serious. It’s good to see a play that takes the problem seriously. – Peter Thompson
(Corpus Playroom 2015)
Cambridge Theatre Review
Lean is a powerful, thought-provoking piece of drama about the psychological implications of anorexia. At times overwhelming, its unexpected humour and moments of intense tenderness make it a complex and brilliant production. Lean does something unusual in its subject matter, handling the sensitive issue of anorexia without using familiar (though valid) tropes of celebrity culture or body image. Instead, based on the playwright’s own relationship with a male anorexic, it focuses more on the deeply complex psychological aspect of anorexia - Tara Lee
Her accurate depiction of one man’s battle with his obsessive behaviour and withdrawal from the world is what makes this play bold, important, and irrefutably worthy of this second run. - Charlotte Saul
But Lean, the superb debut of up-and-coming playwright Isley Lynn, managed to cut down and burn to the ground all of my expectations, defences and dignity. The striking climax of a finalé left me – and, as I was quick to check, at least 40% of the audience – looking like we were ready to crawl into the foetal position, try not to cry, and cry – a lot. - Vica Germanova, 74 (Strong First)
Perhaps most importantly, Lean wasn’t just a play about anorexia – it took the illness and made it a central aspect, but beyond that built a fully-fledged drama: at times humourous, at times shocking, and never patronising. - Will Popplewell
London Theatre 1
A powerful and gripping piece of theatre. - Terry Eastham
(Green Rooms 2017)
striking ... powerful .... starkly beautiful
Occupying the first floor of the Green Rooms Hotel in Wood Green, Hotel Europe consists of five short audio plays behind five anonymous doors, each meditating on themes of identity, nationality and persecution, and each complimented by the studiously designed room they inhabit ... Created by Isley Lynn and Philipp Ehmann, this part visual installation, part audio play, part lo-fi immersive experience offers an absorbing hour of new writing.
CRITIC'S PICK: EVENT OF THE WEEK (FEB 21ST)
a quietly understated work ... peculiarly heart-breaking
The single audience member is directed into five rooms in turn, each containing an audio play heard either through headphones or broadcast directly into the space. Each of the rooms are distinct, yet all contain a certain strain of nostalgia in the decoration ... The aesthetic contrasts with the immediacy of the project itself – short plays in response to the Brexit vote – and in doing so provides a reminder of how hard it is to disentangle a long-running relationship between the tiny British Isles and the larger continent it loiters just to the side of. How hard, for instance, it is to decide who is British and who is European and who, indeed, is really any nationality when so many people come from families that have moved throughout Europe, Britain and the rest of the world.
THE PLAY'S THE THING
quietly subversive ... detailed and distinctive ... hugely personal
The act of solo listening fosters intimacy and a more personal relationship with the story, which undoubtedly sways audience emotional response. It’s an effective device that supports the Hotel Europe‘s aims of generating empathy and understanding. The power of Hotel Europe is in the solitary closeness between the audience members and the work. The immersive design and and freedom to take in the pieces shapes the experience and allows for a different sort of reflection than that found in a dark room with other people. It has a quiet, lingering power and isn’t aggressive in its agenda – a moving and vital work for a turbulent world.
VIEWS FROM THE GODS
a startling intimate experience ... I wanted to revisit again and again because it's so well executed
However you voted in the referendum last summer, you'll find it a wrench to not remain in Hotel Europe. A brilliant concept brought to life gloriously, this piece combines the best of many different mediums to create something truly unique.
In classic Lynn style, all was not as it first appeared. – Joe Hooper, IdeasTap
Isley Lynn's amazing poetry show was as close to a perfect performance as I've seen: open, funny, clever, truthful, moving, touching. Isley is a wonderful writer and a great performer that draws you in rather than shouting at you. Look out for it in the future. – David Lockwood, Bike Shed Theatre
It’s adult, it’s very clever, and it will have you splitting your sides – Jeremy Child
I was hooked – Gina Sherman, Apples and Snakes
It blew me away – Emily Williams, Barbican Theatre Plymouth
Very honest and sincere… I feel moved and changed. – Monique Luckman, Wide Awake Devon
It is very refreshing to read work which explores love in such a frank and honest way. There are not many people brave enough to do it. - Kayo Chingonyi
Some of the most amusing, powerful and intensely personal pieces of work I have ever seen – Tom Angell, SourDough Theatre
Her stuff is fantastic - moving, arousing, humorous, technically brilliant and achingly honest – Andrew Bate
Gritty, raw and passionate writing – TrailBlaze Theatre
Captivating... such honesty and humility, yet a definite confidence. Wicked work. – Matthew Cummins
Hilarious, moving – Carla Lever
Fantastic, warm, honest and amusing – Sebastian Constantine
Sharp tongued yet sweetly sincere words from Isley Lynn - Apples and Snakes