The gold rush is finished. So is Frankie, a faded actress crippled by a stroke in the snowy wastes of Skagway, an Alaskan frontier town. What do you do when you’re trapped at the end of the world?
Memory, debt and regret underpin Karen Ardiff’s new play, set in late nineteenth-century Alaska. They bind Frankie (Angeline Ball) to the women of Skagway, all drawn by the lure of gold.
As Frankie’s loyal companion May (Geraldine Alexander) tends to her, May’s resentful daughter T-Belle (Kathy Rose O’Brien) tries desperately to get them out of a boom town ruined by prospectors.
The superb cast unearth nuggets of humour in the mournful script. Ball’s hard-nosed coquettishness as a younger Frankie in flashback is matched by the quiet resilience of Alexander’s birdlike May.
Director Russell Bolam unfolds the play’s tale of survival with poetic intensity. As Frankie’s mind unspools, we see back into her past as first meetings and secrets are revealed like retinal images by sudden bursts of light.
‘In Skagway’ is full of great things, including Natasha Starkey’s sparky performance as a tough, sardonic prostitute. But its short scenes feel too fragmented – a sequence of evocative vignettes rather than a gelled whole.
And how exactly did the three women end up in Alaska? We never really find out, which matters in a play where the journey from past to present is so important.
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I saw In Skagway last night and you're right, there is a poetic intensity about it. Beautifully acted by the cast who made you sympathise with their stories and laugh at the same time.
Although I haven't seen the British debut, I'm lucky enough to have seen the Irish original version and it was wonderful. I will be making this to see Angeline Ball bring it to life.