Two separate journeys tell their own perspectives on life as an immigrant, where your voice, your name or your skin will, at best, label you as ‘other’ or ‘different’, and, at worst, as ‘unwelcome’.
Behind Our Skin follows sister writing duo the Bertreaus as they play Julia and Camille, two French girls experiencing immigration in very different ways.
Camille lives in London; she’s pregnant and shy. Her neighbour is uncomfortably warm, but Camille softens and tries to assimilate into her new home in England. Anne Bertreau as Camille is a purposeful storyteller, her entire body encapsulating the desperation she feels.
Julia lives in France, and she works, unenthusiastically, at Disneyland Paris. She discovers a friend in coworker Nayssam, a cheerful, hardworking Moroccan woman, who finds herself singled out when something goes missing at work. Sophie Bertreau as Julia is effective, but the switch in purpose from main character to Nayssam’s storyteller makes the balance of immigration perspectives less exact. The production image shows two nearly identical white women, which comes off as misaligned to the message of the piece.
The two stories each grow thick with tension, made even heavier by the eventual dovetailing with terrorist attacks in France.
The actors impress, but the writing shines above all. Performed like a dramatic reading of an expertly descriptive novel, this piece of theatre is a commentary on why Camille and Nayssam have such different experiences as immigrants, even though behind their skin they are the same. One hides her hijab from her public life; the other can depend on strangers to help them in a crisis.
“If people don’t hear these stories, things will never change,” says Julie. This show, detailing the obstacles that immigrants face, deserves a larger audience, especially with xenophobia on the rise in today’s world.