A couple’s life in 1950s rural New Zealand, Cindy Marcolina catches director Max Kirk just before the press night for Skin Tight:

Tom (Philippe Edwards) and Elizabeth (Louise Hoare) look back at their life together in 1950s rural New Zealand, a life-long love nourished by a violent passion that so easily turns into anger. Gary Henderson’s Skin Tight, as directed by Max Kirk, is a touching insight into a young love turned old and everything that comes with choosing someone over everyone else.

Skin Tight is visceral indeed. Max and the company make the best out of the black box setting that is The Hope Theatre, using its dark blackboard surfaces to draw and mark the pieces of land and farm out. It’s a violently passionate start of expressive movement, choreographed into a tight and technically flawless rhythm, before an emotional and heartbreaking ending. Edwards and Hoare share a stunning chemistry in their intimacy, owning each other’s bodies and waltzing along to Henderson’s prose. Their two iron-like personalities collide as they discuss love & war, children, lovers and leaving one’s land, all in a beautiful dance.

I spoke to Max just before the press night frenzy to find out about his journey and why he chose to direct this specific Kiwi play:

Louise Hoare & Philippe Edwards (image courtesy of Tim Hall)

When did you realise you wanted to be a director?

MaxI’ve known for years that it’s something I really want to do. I’ve been involved in theatre since school; it fills you up and makes you feel in place, it gives you a sense of community. However, it wasn’t until just before university when I got the opportunity to direct something – it felt right. I was watching a lot of theatre around that time but I wasn’t making work. I wanted to be a film director, but theatre fits more easily. For now at least.

It fills you up and makes you feel in place

What is your process when you direct something?

Max: I’m not excessively process driven. I like to meet the play. For Skin Tight it was a very physical approach – we approached the characters first through movement and then through text.

It’s really important that the actors have ownership of what they’re doing in order for them to do their best. There’s a vision that I have, what I want the play to feel like… But it’s more instinctive – how we can work together in a room, or how I can work with a lighting designer to get that visualisation.

Louise Hoare & Philippe Edwards (image courtesy of Tim Hall)

How did you come to choose Skin Tight?

Max: Skin Tight was my graduate showcase at LAMDA – I was really interested in exploring New Zealand’s theatre, which is my heritage from my dad. It was a heritage that I didn’t really know about, I hadn’t explored it in myself or in my work.

As soon as I read Skin Tight I understood that’s what I wanted to say right now

What is the play about?

Max: It’s about a couple on a farm in New Zealand, playing with time &space in a visceral, violent, and passionate way. Thematically, it’s a love story, but it’s more about the way we are in a relationship. Passion has all these different angles – it’s not just a nice thing.

It’s also about connection to a place and a land, what it means to really belong somewhere. It’s even more interesting when you consider the Kiwi aspect to it all – someone who owns a land, or has moved to a land, but who isn’t originally from there. The heritage of these characters is Pākehā, which means European New Zealanders, rather than indigenous.


Images courtesy of Tim Hall

To read more about Skin Tight, which plays The Hope Theatre until 4 November 2017, follow the company on Twitter (@MagpieSouthern) or visit the theatre website – www.thehopetheatre.com