How Does A Snake Shed Its Skin

Susanna Hislop and Anna Ledwich

Slip of Steel

Summerhall

From 01 August 2014 to 24 August 2014

Rating: ***

Review by Seth Ewin

This show immediately reminded me of last year's Summerhall hit Major Tom, partly because of it being in the same space, partly because the performer brings the same humour and light-heartedness to the show.

Like Major Tom, it looks at how women are treated in society, though, in How Does A Snake Shed Its Skin, Susanna Hislop focuses on´╗┐ three twentieth century icons rather than her own experiences. Although just because it is ostensibly a show about Marilyn Monroe, Virginia Woolf and Margaret Thatcher, that doesn't stop Hislop telling us about herself too.

So essentially this is a show about four women. The basis for the piece is the personal written accounts of these three women, their diaries and letters. Hislop has been doing a lot of homework.

The piece is quite haphazard. Hislop throws in lots of elements to the mix: audience interaction, impersonations, frenetic physical performance interspliced with the words of the four different women. It might lose the audience, but Hislop is an engaging performer and is very natural on stage.

There is a lot of reflection and breaking down her act for the audience. This could be annoying, but Hislop's self-analysis fits with the indecisive image she presents of herself. She is also very good at switching between characters. 

Thatcher, though, stands out though as her best impersonation, but there is a lot more to the show than just impressions; it is a look at the problems women face in the spotlight. There are interesting parallels in the dieting and the obsession with food within the various diaries.

Hislop is a really engaging performer even if her show verges on the ridiculous. It is entertaining in its attempt to self-consciously take on an impossible task. As for the title's relavance, absolutely no idea.