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Soho Theatre: Interview with Amanda Wilkin star and writer of Shedding A Skin

Soho Theatre: Interview with Amanda Wilkin star and writer of Shedding A Skin

Amanda Wilkin is a playwright, actress and jazz and blues singer-songwriter from London. In 2017 she was on the Royal Court and BBC London Writers’ Groups. After touring Hamlet to 188 countries with Shakespeare’s Globe, she wrote her first play And I Dreamt I Was Drowning , which was developed as part of the Talawa Firsts Festival 2018. She has since written and performed short pieces at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, The Little Sob as part of Dark Night of the Soul in early 2019, and Bessie Coleman as part of Notes to the Forgotten She-Wolves in early 2020. She is under commission to Audible as part of their Emerging Playwrights Programme 2020 and to Headlong Theatre Company, where she is also Writer in Residence 2021/22. She is also part of the Young Women Opera Makers Aix- en Provence’s Opera residency 2021/22. Recent work includes the audio play Recognition about the C19th’s famous mixed race composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor for 45North Ltd/Ellie Keel Productions (released 2021).

Soho Theatre celebrates the relaunch of its theatre programme this summer with an exhilarating new play. Shedding A Skin ,written by Amanda Wilkin , the 2020 winner of the acclaimed Verity Bargate Award, sponsored by Character 7, introduces audiences to a fresh and fierce new voice. Shedding A Skin is a Soho Theatre production sponsored by NJA. A story for our times, Shedding A Skin is a play about finding kindness in unexpected places, moments of connection, intergenerational friendship and joy. It will be the first new play staged in front of live audiences at Soho Theatre since the pandemic and brings together the creative talents of Amanda Wilkin and Elayce Ismail, who also directed the sell-out hit GIRLS (Soho Theatre 2016).

The Verity Bargate Award is Soho Theatre’s flagship new-writing award, sponsored by Character 7. Since 1982, the biennial playwriting award competition has uncovered the best new play by an emerging UK and Irish writer and launched the careers of some of Britain’s most established writers. From a record number of 1493 entries for the 2020 Verity Bargate Award, Amanda Wilkin’s spellbinding play captivated the Award’s readers and judges and was announced as the Award winner in October. Shedding A Skin will run for 5 weeks in Soho Theatre’s Main House from 17 June to 17 July. ALT caught up with Amanda to talk about lockdown the play and more….

What has lockdown been like for you professionally?

It’s been very solitary. Mostly me sat at my laptop, trying to write. And like most, I’ve been forced to reassess my relationship with my work, and recommit myself to making the work that I want to.  

It’s also been a surprising time with some good news. I found out that I won the Verity Bargate award with a play that I submitted before the pandemic began. 

What inspired this Idea?

I was feeling disconnected and needed to write something joyful. What came out was a story about intergenerational friendship, and how important it is to be a part of your community. And how to find your voice. 

What is it like writing and performing in Shedding Skin: what are the challenges or benefit?

At the moment of writing this I’m still in rehearsals. I’ve had to really separate my roles, sometimes adjusting the script as the writer -concentrating solely on the text, and then getting up on my feet and switching my brain so that as I see the words as an actor I’m concentrating on what the character is feeling in that moment. It’s felt sticky at times, especially to start with when I needed to make adjustments to the script. But I am enjoying the process of accessing the different parts of myself. 

I didn’t write this play for myself to perform, but more because it was something that I felt I had to write. And I’m lucky that I am surrounded with an excellent director and creative team. It’s not just mine anymore. It’s all of ours. 

What made you decide on a creative career?

I had a great drama teacher who told me there was a thing called drama school, and she suggested I audition. I owe a huge debt to her for her encouragement. 

Tell us about your character who is she?

She is a young woman who feels exasperated by the world she lives in. She’s spent a long time not being able to talk about how she feels and it’s suffocated her. The journey she takes allows her to begin to connect with others.

Why did you decide on the title what does it mean to you?

To me, shedding a skin is shedding fear. Fear of being the other. Fear of feeling uncomfortable in one’s body – because of what society puts on us. To shed this is to stand in your own light, strong.

What is it like going back to the theatre after lockdown?

It’s been kinda crazy if I’m honest. My energy levels were really down at first, I think as a result of not having used my brain in that way for a year. But the joy of collaborating with my director Elayce, and everyone else in the room has fed my spirit joyfully. 

As an actor what kind of stories do you like to perform in?

I don’t have a favourite kind of story, but I do like knotty characters. 

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How do you think the theatre industry will change for better or worse due to the Pandemic?

I think it has to change for the better or else it will become void. And I think there are some great people and companies and buildings doing the work. We all take notice. And I know the artists who I want to collaborate with. Part of growing as an artist is finding the people you need to make work with. For me, those are the ones who know that theatre must reflect the world we live in. And engage with its community. 

Tell us what you like most about the Shedding a Skin story without giving anything away?

I like that I get to laugh. And I get to be silly, sometimes. 

Whats coming up next?

Oof. A holiday? Time to walk and reflect on the journey that’s been taken, so I can really appreciate what’s just happened and that my play was on in a theatre. I never believed that this would happen. I am so proud of every one of our team. It’s a play that we’ve collectively made. 

And after that? Back to my laptop I think..

Amanda Wilkin stars in her play Shedding A Skin, winner of Soho Theatre’s prestigious Verity Bargate Award 2020.

Shedding A Skin opens at Soho Theatre on the 17 June until 17 July.

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