A selection of teeth (or maybe they’re just stones) crop up throughout Anna Beecher’s story, talismans for Nicholas (Daniel Holme) to hold dear, treasure and covet. He seems drawn to them, spotting them on the ground but also fixating on them in his description of others. In Nicholas’ world, a place in which he seems to observe but not quite participate in, the man with the gold tooth is the ultimate escape, one who stands out and shines in what is otherwise a grey existence. Holme narrates Beecher’s detailed story, Skin Of The Teeth, with a similar level of detachment, wanting to feel but never quite experiencing the emotions that others seem to display with ease.
Nicholas is an affable, if simple, sort of storyteller. On the one hand, he bumbles along with an apparent simplicity, but at moments the audience can spot a sinister glint in his eye, a glimpse of desperation and pre-psychotic perception. He moves about the stage comfortably yet also with nervous energy – the dedication within Holme’s characterisation all adds to the atmosphere in The Vault cavern. Beecher revels in seemingly uninteresting detail, which gives depth to those characters never realised in the flesh. The people that aren’t there, they are the ones that feel, that guide and that ultimately influence the world according to Nicholas. The culmination of his story with a non-specific, cliff-hanger ending, in which many scenarios are concurrently possible, leaves us feeling uneasy yet stimulated.
Skin Of The Teeth is a story that glorifies an outsider, someone who lives at the circumference of normality, always looking in and wishing to be part of the clan. Desperate to feel fear, to shudder, to experience any sense of terror, Nicholas is pushed through from one dangerous situation to another. All these things may have happened to him; they may just have easily been a fairy-tale, a fantasy world that Nicholas has created and draws the audience into. The lack of emotion only serves to heighten our senses.
As a trio, Beecher, Holme and director Rachel Lincoln are clearly in sync – all elements of this production work together and create a show laced with intensity and anticipation. The subterranean, dank world of The Vaults is exactly where you would expect to find this story – an abnormal boy narrating his seemingly sub-human tale with pride and glee. A story that exists parallel to all others, outside of the mundane and gripping its audience with morbid fascination.