Directed by Sarah Frankcom
Music by Nico Muhly & Antony
Starring: Maxine Peak
At its heart, Maxine Peake takes a firm grip on the many roles of the Skriker, deftly weaving between facades and personas, while the malevolent spirit boils beneath their surface. With malicious manipulation this creature's sole intention, Peake's physicality is pushed to extremes as she caterwauls between regality and Gollum-like animalism, while she heaves up through the homonymic text like a rabid monkey up a coconut palm. The language of the Skriker is laden with assonant puns; like Shakespeare meets Kushner meets Eminem it seethes with fury at a world falling to pieces, where war and global warming is destroying the Mother Earth of yore. Though twenty years old, the play is as relevant now as it ever was, with the fear of the rape of our planet as strong as it has ever been. This wicked creature, solely bent on destruction and ruin, is the violent force of nature's retribution, punishing and tricking and smiting parasitic humans. So as the audience sits in this desolate concrete man-made cavern, its infestation of psychotic nobodies claw and bounce between the seats in a constant reminder that man can be destroyed by nature from the inside.
Since Peake's Hamlet at the Royal Exchange, as well as her celebrated performance of The Masque Of Anarchy at MIF 2013 (both of which were similarly directed by Sarah Frankcom), the actress has been lauded as an almost deified stalwart of Manchester's current theatrical renaissance. Pushed to the edges of her physical limits, this performance has burrowed right to the depths of the actress' core and sucked out her energy to the last drop. For her sake, thank goodness she's only performing once a day! Because if only to see how far Peake can be pushed, crowds will be flocking to see The Skriker. But while they're there, they'll be confronted with a disquieting truth that despite all their convictions or sensibilities, they too will be overwhelmed by the magnificence of psychosis. Which has left me feeling somewhat peculiar.