Shedding A Skin is the winner of Soho Theatre’s prestigious playwriting prize, the Verity Bargate Award.

The play is about finding kindness in unexpected places and bridging the gap between generations by connecting with what our elders can teach us.

Written by and starring Amanda Wilkin Shedding A Skin has been chosen to relaunch Soho Theatre’s summer season on the main stage with a 5-week run. The play further reinforces Wilkin as a fresh, new and powerful voice sharing poignant stories from the British Black experience that can resonate with all.

We caught up with Wilking who shares her relief that the play has been given the go-ahead in regards to covid restrictions and how we can learn from the Wind Rush Generation and their significance to Shedding A Skin

Please introduce yourself? 

I am Amanda. I’m a playwright and actor. And I’m really happy to be rehearsing my play right now.

Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now? 

Belly laugh. 

We last spoke to you back in March when you said fingers crossed Shedding a Skin could go ahead. How does it feel to finally get the green light and to see theatres back open again?

I am so happy and at the same time, my heart breaks for the artists and companies whose work was postponed/cancelled because of the pandemic. I know that there have been many theatres and companies doing great work digitally and engaging with their young companies over the last year. Theatres have been shut yes, but freelancers have still been trying to engage and make shows. I have been greatly encouraged by the people continuing to do great work.

Shedding a Skin has been chosen to relaunch Soho Theatre’s Summer Season with a 5 week run on the main stage did you have doubts that it would make it onto the stage?

Honestly, I did. I worried about things closing down again. I still do. But I’m not in control of that. And I can’t live like that. So I’ve decided that I just have to carry on and see what happens. I love being an artist. And I am so happy to be at Soho, with a brilliant creative team collectively giving it everything. I can’t wait to share this story with a live audience.

With other theatres opening up with more established names and well-known productions do you feel pressure for your play to perform well and gain the attention of audiences?

Would you believe me if I said no? I think that it’s really hard to quieten the voice in you saying “‘what if people don’t come” but it is necessary to do it. I am an established name to myself. And I can only be the best that I can be. To arrive at rehearsals ready to bring energy and concentration to the room. To be open to what my director says. I cannot compare myself or my show to others. And I think there’s something to gain from taking a chance by watching a story you’ve never seen before, not knowing how it will end.

There’s an incredible gain to watching new writing, with someone you’ve never seen on stage before. I know the actors/writers and creatives in my industry are brilliant and resilient, and really really good. It doesn’t serve us to try to make the ‘perfect‘ show. It serves us to take chances, knowing there’s a chance it could ‘fail’. But to take chances is to be alive, and to believe that everyone has something to say and that we deserve to take up our space.

Amanda Wilkin in Shedding A Skin poster

The key themes of the play include healing, small acts of kindness, protest, intergenerational friendships, and the power of community. Can you tell us more about the main protagonist and her journey of discovery?

Our protagonist is a young woman. Something happens and she finds herself jobless, at rock bottom, and needing somewhere new to live. She moves in with someone and it is the beginning of something unexpected. 

The play previews in the week running up to the anniversary of Windrush Day, and in time with the scandal surrounding the concerns about the lack of compensation payments victims are receiving, which makes it an extremely relevant piece. In what ways do you think Shedding a Skin highlights what has been happening to the Windrush generation?

There’s a character in my play who is a part of that generation. And the play explores some of the isolation that our elders have felt and how important it is for us to not only respect them and listen to their stories but to engage with them and in doing so pay respect to the things that they know are important – like a community. And to stand with one’s head held high, to speak out when something’s wrong. Because without this we cannot honour them.  We need to come together to demand compensation – not only monetary, but for the respect and dignity, our elders deserve. I, like others, have found myself so sad about this ongoing situation. My activism is channelled into my writing. It’s my way of saying these characters are people, they are human and they are beautiful. 

As both the writer and actress in this one-woman show, what do you think you bring to the stage that no one else could?

Hopefully, I can bring a certain level of understanding about my main character. It’s not an autobiographical story, but there are elements to the play that I have felt myself. It was a difficult decision to make as to whether to act in this or not. I didn’t write the part for myself, to be honest, I never imagined this play would go on. I was shocked when I found out I won the Verity Bargate Award. But in the end, I felt that I didn’t want to not perform in it because I was afraid to. I love acting. 

Which scene most resonates with you and defines what you want people to understand about the meaning or the message behind your play?

I don’t know if I can answer this without giving away what happens. So I’ll say that hope resonates with me as a person, and as a writer. I want people to know that there’s an alternative to all the division that society feeds us into thinking is the only way to act. And I would like people to know that saying how we feel about ourselves and the world is important. To stand in one’s light is important. And that to connect with others, with our elders, and with strangers, is a quiet act of rebellion. 

How do you plan on celebrating the opening of the show?

Probably by heading home and taking a bath.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU…

  • A book you have to have in your collection? The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House by Audre Lorde
  • A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? –  Nina Simone’s album Nuff Said
  • A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? – Apart from Battlestar Gallactica? Battlestar Gallactica.
  • The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance, or concert)? – I saw the Chineke! Orchestra perform at the Southbank Centre. First time I’ve seen an orchestra with so many Black and Brown musicians live. Made my heart sing. 
  • What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? – Sad – Oof. Where to begin. Countries battling the pandemic and struggling. And the people protesting in Myanmar. Mad – Oof. Where to begin?! Our government.  Glad – Oof. Where to begin! Being in a rehearsal room with a wicked collective of badass theatre makers. Morning kitchen dancing. Cycling in the sunshine. Grinning thinking about what’s about to happen.

Amanda Wilkin stars in Shedding A Skin at Soho Theatre opening on the 17th June – 17th July 2021, with a live-streamed performance July 15th. Find out more here