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Thick Skin, Elastic Heart writer/director Drew Taylor-Wilson finds poetry in motion as Glasgow collective Sonnet Youth's theatre production arrives at Eden Court, Inverness and The Stables, Cromarty this weekend

By Kyle Walker

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BRINGING Thick Skin, Elastic Heart northwards is a rare treat for writer/director Drew Taylor-Wilson – for many reasons.

Indeed, in Drew’s view, the Sonnet Youth production that he has helped shape might never have toured as it has if it hadn’t been for the efforts of a particular Highland-based creative type.

“James Mackenzie-Blackman who runs Eden Court, he was quite instrumental in making sure that the show got selected as part of the Touring Fund – which is the Creative Scotland fund that it is being supported by,” Drew explained.

“So I’m really excited to be able to show him and his venue the work that he worked hard to help get put together. It’s a venue that I’ve done quite a lot of work in over the years, and I always love coming up to Inverness.

“The audiences there are so good and loyal and it seems really lovely to be able to present a work that is a really brilliant, universal piece but then also has a specific focus for a younger demographic as well – I know that’s something that isn’t necessarily that common.”

Audiences at Eden Court and Cromarty’s Stables will get a show that’s steeped in the experiences of one of society’s more favoured generational punching bags – the millenial.

Often stereotyped as avocado-munching snowflakes obsessed with safe spaces and social media, Drew built this show to challenge those notions.

And it’s a show that has been 10 years in the making. “The idea came about to create a piece that was, at the time, really unashamedly a collection of a lot of the poetry work that I’d been working on.

The cast for Sonnet Youth's Thick Skin, Elastic Heart (from left): Robert Elkin, Chartotte Driessler, Cameron Fulton and Danielle Jam. Picture: Jamie McFayden
The cast for Sonnet Youth's Thick Skin, Elastic Heart (from left): Robert Elkin, Chartotte Driessler, Cameron Fulton and Danielle Jam. Picture: Jamie McFayden

“I was working on it in the background basically for 10 years, and then realising about three years ago that it could come together in this quite cohesive way. It felt so amazing to be able to go ‘right, actually, this is a piece about young voices that are just not being heard enough at the moment.’

“We have small, young characters in theatre works. We have lots of young characters put on TV. But we’re not necessarily in theatre realms having those voices be front and centre.

“Unashamedly this show is about what’s going on right now, creating a piece that allows audiences of a similar demographic to be able to feel very seen by the work. But also every other generation watching that being able to get a real insight into what it means to live in the UK right now as a younger person.”

And the style of the show – that performance poetry inspiration – was integral to its creation. “You know, it's really snappy, and innately oversharing as a genre!” he laughed. “I thought it was good.

“And you get these beautiful little worlds that instantly allow you access to someone you might know, someone that your parents might know, a kid from school. Or, most frequently, sometimes very uncomfortable reflections of your own life kind of shone back to you.”

Revisiting his old works in the creation of the piece showed Drew how much things had changed even within the last ten years. “I’m at the upper end of the scale [age-wise] when it comes to millenial conversations, but what was really interesting about revisiting it all was that a lot of the time when the works were written I was closer to that age.

“And even more than that, in creating the full text for this performance it felt really amazing to revisit it all and set it absolutely now. To the point where this show that we do in Inverness and Cromarty is slightly different to the one that we did in the autumn, because the whole point of it is responding to what’s going on in the world right now.”

That recontextualisation of the work to keep it as fresh as possible makes, Drew hoped, Thick Skin, Elastic Heart feel as current and up to date as possible. “Keeps the performers on their toes, definitely!” he laughed.

Thick Skin, Elastic Heart by Sonnet Youth comes to Eden Court, Inverness on Saturday and The Stables, Cromarty on Sunday. For more information or to book tickets, go to www.drewmakestheatre.com

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