Sk!n is an Oz Asia production from Malaysia by TerryandtheCruz raising awareness of the refugee issue. Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN convention relating to the Status of Refugees, making them vulnerable to abuse.
The performance itself involves the audience as part of the show. As we are ushered into the foyer we hand over our possessions, fill in some forms and are assigned a number. We are then led to a room: “Keep Up Please!” where we were told to line up in single file. “No Talking!” Measured, weighed, assessed, our statistics are called out and recorded. Our photos are taken. We line up for assessment. I had marked that I knew how to dance. To prove it I had to stand in a white square and demonstrate my ability. I conceded that yes, I had no classical training and was more of a nightclub dancer. The process is dehumanising and the judgments seemingly random. Girls with good boots were given special treatment.
I was approved and told to sit in the waiting room. One by one, new arrivals were assessed and assigned to yellow, green or red zones. The waiting areas quickly filled to capacity so we had to shuffle in to allow for more people. “No Talking!” “Look to the Front!” Despite jugs of water being available, no-one was brave enough to take a drink. After assessment, the yellow zone group was taken away, and a wife yelled out “See you soon, honey” “No Talking!” was the stern admonishment.
Finally we were corralled into a container, with varying degrees of comfortable seating. As the doors open we are confronted with a stark bathroom scene, which conjures up images of Nazi Germany. Anonymous shapes crawl across the floor, one by one at first, then more and more. Individual performers rise up and against the never-ending tide of bodies. They show hope, promise and bravery before eventually succumbing to fear, sorrow and despair.
Once again as the performance ends, the group are separated, and as the privileged group we are given champagne and pretzels and congratulated on our ability to recognise the issue and even attend rallies (when it’s not too wet). We are reminded that the problem of refugees that affect close to 60 million people worldwide is easy to forget when living in comfort and entitlement.
Sk!n is an experience unlike any other and a powerful and confronting event that leaves the audience thinking long after it is over.
Sk!n was reviewed at The Maj Gallery in Adelaide on 1st October, in its final performance.