Swallow This Skin (Unhushed Theatre Collective) 2021 Toronto Fringe Review

Swallow This Skin by the Unhushed Theatre Collective, currently playing as part of this year’s Digital Fringe Festival, currently exists as an audio play. It details the life of the dancers at a run-down Toronto strip club in the few hours before they open for another night.

Stylized similarly to The Vagina Monologues, this audio play is peppered with provocative monologues that touch on topics from racial fetishization and sexuality to reproductive health and religion. When a former dancer returns to the stage and a customer lingers around after last call, this night spirals far from being an average night at the club.

Unhushed Theatre Collective originally envisioned Swallow This Skin as a staged play involving dance and movement throughout, but due to the pandemic, this wasn’t possible. Instead, an audio-only radio play added vulnerability to the text. The actors opened their hearts and exposed themselves in their monologues.

It works quite well. We may not know what these characters look like, and it doesn’t actually matter. The monologues become anonymous confessions that resonate with anyone who was born female or had to live through assault, harassment, or just a bad relationship. For anyone who has struggled with sexuality, body image, sexual pressure, these confessions will speak to you.

Swallow this Skin was created by Mackenzie Saliola, Megan Legesse, Zoe Marin, Tamara Mobarak, Naomi Lopez Morales, Brie Bennett,
Kathleen Ballangan, Sanya Josephs, and Ky Wellington. It is directed by Megan Legesse with sound design by Nick Beardsley. I have to express my appreciation for the sound design. Beardsley has been able to make this audio play truly transformative. The use of music, effects and the range of voices and their distance from the main microphone sound gritty and authentic, just like you’re at the club.

The banter between the women, how they both confide in and are catty to each other, and how they are bold, blunt and honest when speaking about problematic customers, the appearance of their vaginas, and the relationships they dream about, feels real and blissfully unscripted. This is how I talk to my closest friends about deeply personal topics; it’s instantly relatable.

I resonated with the monologue about growing up Filipina, and the Asian fetishization that can come with it. I’ve experienced this many times as an Asian woman. It spoke to me on many levels.

I have great hopes for Swallow This Skin.  Although hearing it as an audio play was fun and enticing, I look forward to seeing what the team creates when this gets a proper staging in a theatre as intended.

Details

  • Swallow This Skin is playing on-demand at the Virtual 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival.
  • Purchase a $5 Membership to access the On-Demand programming on the Fringe website, then Pay What You Can to each show as you go with a suggested price of $13 per show.
  • Memberships can be purchased here. View the virtual on-demand show listings here.
  • Accessibility notes:
    • On-Demand shows: videos are closed captioned, transcripts are available for all audio content, documents are screen-reader friendly, and all digital images are provided with alternative text descriptions. These access supplements have been generated by the company and reviewed by the Festival. They may vary slightly from company to company.
    • Fringe Primetime presentations will feature Auto-Transcribed Captioning.
  • Content Warning: This performance contains discussions regarding suicide attempt, rape, racism, eating disorders, harassment and reproductive health. Viewer discretion is advised.

Graphic designed by Mena Rimac, provided by the company

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