I got the chance to watch the play “Skellig” at the Old Rep Theatre in Birmingham. The play is about Michael, a boy who has to cope with a house move, a newborn baby sister fighting for life and old Skellig, the ungrateful, arthritic tramp discovered in the garage of the new house who is also thought to be an angel. In this essay I will talk about how the actors used the stage, voice and movement to show the characters’ feelings and emotions throughout the play.
The play begins with the family’s first day at the house. The towering spiral of junk that depicts the house from basement to attic is used for every scene in the play. If looked at in detail, the spiral of junk would’ve included: an old freezer; piles of old newspapers and books; cardboard boxes; old furniture and ripped up clothes. The whole set was just dark browns, darks blues and dark greens which portrayed the gloom of the play.
The first one to enter the scene is Michael. Whilst he does a monologue that tells his story so far the rest of the cast pick up instruments to play the music and effects during the monologue. This perhaps portrays the closeness of the family on which the play is based because everyone is on stage at that part of the play. It added a contrast of cheerful music to the dark set and it also included the audience in the play.
Michael’s voice changes as he begins to talk about his sister. He speaks with a nervous tone of voice as he begins to move very carefully, suggesting perhaps that his sister needs very gentle care at the moment. His father tries to repair and clean the danger-filled garage as best he can which includes a horrible toilet. However, the garage is so wrecked that Michael’s father warns him not to go inside. His tone of voice, at that moment, is louder but only shows an attempt to threaten his son and not to suggest that he has power over Michael because later on in the play Michael goes into the garage regardless of his father’s warning.
When Skellig is introduced into the play, he is seen by Michael as a strange human-like creature that seems to have almost wasted away. Neal Foster (Skellig) spends most of the play sitting still to emphasise the severity of Skellig’s arthritis. When Michael asks him what he is, he simply answers, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” He uses this answer to almost any question asked by Michael and he always expresses this line with stiffness and anger in his voice. This could also represent his arthritis condition. Michael decides to take care of Skellig and asks if there is anything he could do for him.
Skellig demands aspirin and states two numbers, 27 and 53. Michael doesn’t understand the meaning of he numbers but decides to help in any way he can. There is a big change in levels of the characters in the play. At the beginning of the play, when Skellig is vulnerable and in pain, he is always lower than any other character. Skellig gradually gets higher and at the end of the play, Skellig is the highest and therefore with more power over other characters.
Later on in the play Michael meets a girl named Mina who lives next door. She is home schooled, and is very interested in nature and poems by William Blake. They become very close friends and Mina takes Michael to an abandoned house where a lot of owls live. The top of the towering spiral is used as the abandoned house. As Skellig becomes accustomed to and more tolerant of Michael, Michael decides to introduce him to Mina. They decide its best to move him into the abandoned house, due to the fact that Michael’s father is going to tear down the garage in a matter of days. This is a very emotional scene, because for the first time Skellig is moved in the play and the audience understand his fear and pain.
Mina is a very important character in the play and has a lot of impact on how the play progresses. At the first meeting with Michael, she is standing higher then him. However, during the play they change levels so that Michael is sometimes higher but at the end of the play they are on the same level. Skellig begins to heal and become what would appear to be an angel. He gives Michael and Mina a mystical experience in which they can see ghostly wings sprouting from each other’s shoulder blades. The three walk in a circle holding hands and looking directly into each other’s eyes. This scene is based purely on mystery and religious imagery. Although we do not see any wings appear, both Michael and Mina say they can see each other’s wings which could suggest that they are imagining the wings or maybe angel wings would not be seen to the human eye.
The final scene is the most emotional one. Michael’s baby sister comes dangerously close to death. Her mother comes to stay at the hospital and prays. That night something mysterious happens and her mother dreamt of seeing a man come in and pick up the baby. She tells Michael and his father about what happened. Cross-cutting is the technique used in this scene to show the audience what happened in her dream. As the mother speaks of the dream, everyone else is silent and very still.
Skellig makes all the movement and gestures Michael’s mother describes. His facial expressions change from deep thinking to being happy for the baby girl’s survival. Skellig walks up on the top of the towering spiral in the middle of the stage and disappears from the scene. The flashback is over and Michael realizes Skellig was an angel. In conclusion, the play “Skellig” is a very emotional play and the actors use voice to show the feelings of the characters. They use the stage to a full extent to show how Michael grows up throughout the events of meeting Skellig to having to choose between friends to receiving a pair of angel wings. Raw emotion contrasts with moments of great tenderness, and an audience of schoolchildren gave it noisy applause.