About the show / Watch the trailer
28 July 2018 / Cardiff
PART OF THE NHS70 FESTIVAL
National Theatre Wales
Created by Maria Fusco
BBC Hoddinott Hall, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
3-5pm – An afternoon of events investigating the cultural, clinical and creative life of skin.
7-7.45pm – ECZEMA!
ECZEMA! written and directed by Maria Fusco explores the life of eczema; a skin disease affecting an estimated 15 million people in the UK, including the writer herself. Exploring what it is like to live in co-occupation and incessant dialogue with eczema, Fusco’s black comedy mingles itching and scratching cycles into an absurdist, celebratory score of spoken word and music.
A day of events investigating the cultural, clinical and creative life of skin. The day culminates with the premiere of Maria Fusco’s new work, ECZEMA!
Audience members are free to attend all or some of the day’s events.
Age Guidance: 14+
NHS Employees Ticket Offer
As NTW’s small way of saying ‘thank you’ to all NHS staff, we’re offering you the chance to buy £10 concession rate tickets for the following shows: Cotton Fingers, Peggy’s Song, The Stick Maker Tales, For All I Care, Come Back Tomorrow and As Long As The Heart Beats.
To take advantage of the offer
Online – book tickets as normal, selecting the ‘NHS offer’ option
By phone or in person – quote ‘NHS Offer’ when booking
Then simply bring your NHS Staff ID card or similar with you to the performance.
Please note offer is subject to availability and cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.
Rhodri Meilir Interview
We grabbed a quick chat with Rhodri Meilir about his role and what to expect from ECZEMA!
3-5pm: Cultural, Clinical and Creative perspectives on skin
- Amelia Stubberfield reads: Skin by Wanda Coleman
- Naomi Segal: A Short Cultural History of Itching
- Sam Hasler reads: Job’s Skin Game by Alasdair Gray
- Sinéad Langan: Reflections on Adult Eczema
- Amelia Stubberfield reads extracts from: Touching by Ashley Montagu; Thinking Through the Skin edited by Sara Ahmed & Jackie Stacey; The Five Senses by Michel Serres; The Book of Skin by Steven Connor; Eczema by Emily Wills and performs a selection her own eczema puns
- Hywel Williams: Top Ten Tips for Treating Eczema and performs his own composition
- Amelia Stubberfield reads: Last Word on Eczema by Liz Rosenberg
- Maria Fusco in-conversation with Heike Roms
On ECZEMA! By Eli Goldstone
In ECZEMA! Maria Fusco invokes her own lifelong experience as an eczema sufferer, performed in a show written for voice and organ as part of the National Theatre of Wales’ NHS70 season. In it she explores the representation of the painful skin condition. “All day, all night the body intervenes,” writes Virginia Woolf in her extraordinary essay, On Being Ill. And yet, Woolf laments, on a subject later expanded and developed by Elaine Scarry’s The Body In Pain, there is no adequate language with which to articulate physical maladies. The sufferer is reduced to shouts or silence. Emotional torment lends itself repeatedly to poetry, to novels, but what about the discomfort of chronic physical conditions? And what about the embarrassment, the tedium?
There were two problems requiring creative solutions in the making of the show, Fusco tells me during rehearsals for ECZEMA!. Firstly, how to communicate existing in co-occupation with a disease, and how to transcribe that incessant dialogue. Secondly, how to create a score from the physical process of scratching. Using a specially-designed motion sensor glove, the data from thirty seconds of Fusco’s own skin-scratching is harvested and translated into a digital score interpreted by composer and organist John Harris to accompany a script written by Fusco.
The movements are decelerated to create a drone-like, thirty-minute score played on the organ in Hoddinott Hall. In this way, the audience are enveloped in the constant, throbbing hum of the condition, trapped inside the skin of another. Fusco’s script, performed by Rhodri Meilir is rhythmic and cyclical, it itches and scratches, both repelling and comforting.
Skin diseases are painful, and embarrassing. In writing, Fusco explores visibility and shame, what happens when the body turns on itself. She writes about being self-conscious of the sheer weight of medications, and about wearing a clicker around the neck to monitor, and thus self-regulate scratching. I wonder, for whom do we try not to create tears and scabs? Ostensibly to stop damaging one’s own body, but also to save others from the pain of bearing witness to our wounds. Skin is the largest organ in the body, and damage to it suggests general unwellness—dirt, poverty, contagion. We cover ourselves with clothing and make-up and flinch from contact. We disallow ourselves certain intimacies of being seen and being touched.
Fusco talks of how eczema limits what a person can do with their own body, as well as how much they want to be seen. Physical exercise is limited, sweat is caustic to the skin, affected as it is at the most vulnerable parts—the folds of the armpits, and the backs of the knees, the bits where we are so precariously joined together. I think about the things I can and cannot touch, feel, hold, when my skin is torn. The boundary between me and the world is my skin, and when it is broken, the world is too hot, covered in acids, burrs and salts.
Of course, skin also scars. In this way it becomes a map of the self. Fusco describes her project as ‘personal cartography’, a forensic mapping of suffering and recovery. When she asked her dermatologist what appealed to them about their profession, the reply was exactly because conditions affecting the skin are so visible—you can watch it get better. This relief is reciprocal, for the sufferer and for those who must witness the suffering, those who are unwillingly reminded of the vulnerability of their own skin and the blood pumping so close to the surface, underneath.