BBC Newsreader makes Fringe Theatre Debut

November 26, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on BBC Newsreader makes Fringe Theatre Debut


Simon McCoy plays starring role in Second Skin Theatre’s The Christmas Dinner

BBC Newsreader Simon McCoy is destined for a life on the stage. Or at least his voice is. Second Skin Theatre’s latest production The Christmas Dinner features segments of newscasts recorded by McCoy detailing current episodes of starvation and poverty in London.


Written by Stoke Newington local Duncan Stevens and devised by “N16’s resident theatre company” (N16 Magazine), this dark Christmas comedy plays at the White Rabbit Theatre from November 28 to December 16.


A lavish Christmas dinner party thrown by four wealthy and wholly despicable Stoke Newington residents is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of a poltergeist. However, as the night unfolds the true horror reveals itself to be something much closer to themselves.


Artistic Director Andy McQuade (Best Director 2012 – Fringe Report) explores themes of terror in isolation and the unknown, in a society that leaves its forgotten poor to haunt the privileged few. All news reports included in the production are quoted from recent mainstream publications and media sources.

“We are struggling to cope with the scale of this silent epidemic of hunger. More than 60 per cent of the 2,000 children we help every week tell us there is no food at home and 85 per cent rely on us for their main meal of the day. What I am seeing shocks even me. One child told me that he and his brother were so hungry they stole frozen meat from a flat they visited — and they ate it raw.”

Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder and chief executive of Kids Company. The Evening Standard, London, 2012.


“Forty-three hospital patients starved to death last year and 111 died of thirst while being treated on [hospital] wards”

The Telegraph, London, 2012


“A newly married couple forced to live on £57 a week killed themselves in despair after being ‘abandoned’ by social services ”

The Daily Mail, London, 2011


Second Skin Theatre’s The Christmas Dinner by Duncan Stevens plays from November 28 to December 16 (no show December 1 & 7) at the White Rabbit Theatre, 125 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UH. Wednesday to Sunday evenings at 7:30pm. Advance tickets: £10/£8 at

The Christmas Dinner : Horror on Stoke Newington Church Street

November 18, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on The Christmas Dinner : Horror on Stoke Newington Church Street

Directed by Andy McQuade
White Rabbit Theatre | November 28 to December 16

A lavish Christmas dinner party thrown by four wealthy and wholly despicable Stoke Newington residents is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of a poltergeist. However, as the night unfolds the true horror reveals itself to be something much closer to themselves.Duncan Stevens’ hilarious world premier had its first airing in front of a select audience last week and is being redevised on a nightly basis. Seating is strictly limited and on a first-come-first-seated basis so PLEASE book ahead!


Director   Andy McQuade
Producer   Jessica Ruano

Designer   Ana Ines Jabares
Assistant Director   Eleanor Appleton
Lighting Designer   Sarah Crocker
Lights & Sound Tech   Luca Romagnoli


Terrence   Matthew Howell
Clara   Sally Lofthouse
Richard   George Collie
Rachel   Sarita Plowman

Second Skin Theatre’s The Christmas Dinner by Duncan Stevens plays from November 28 to December 16 at the White Rabbit Theatre, 125 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UH. Wednesday to Sunday evenings at 7:30pm. Advance tickets: £10/£8 at


In 2013, Second Skin Theatre presents two new productions at the White Rabbit Theatre that focus on powerful women in history who strive to maintain dignity and beauty through times of adversity.

Sappho… in 9 fragments by Jane Montgomery Griffiths, directed by Jessica Ruano and featuring Victoria Grove (La Chunga), from January 9 to 27, 2013.

Blood Privilege by Don Fried (London premiere), directed by Andy McQuade, from March 13 to 31, 2013. McQuade also directs the play in New York in February and in Los Angeles in May.

REVIEW – QUILLS Hackney Citizen

November 9, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , | Comments Off on REVIEW – QUILLS Hackney Citizen

Second Skin’s rendition of the last days of the Marquis de Sade is a compelling and credible portrayal

Sarah Gill
Friday 9 November 2012

Pressed nose to nape in the hot dark belly of the White Rabbit Cocktail Club, the soft cushions, dark staging and pornographic hangings are a perfect lair for Second Skin’s rendition of Doug Wright’s Quills.

The play re-imagines the last days of the Marquis de Sade from the dungeons of Charenton insane asylum. The only outlet for de Sade’s dark imagination whilst  imprisoned for his wicked behaviour and sinful tastes was in inking violent erotic stories and smuggling them out to the salivating masses.

Framed by the cruel repressions of France’s Reign of Terror, with heads “popping like champagne corks” in Paris, the play is a satirical take on personal freedom, passion and state control.

Grunting and preening, the Marquis should be the villain of the piece and yet he becomes a pathetic kind of hero. He is as much a victim of the greed of Doctor Royer Collard and his own wife, plotting to silence his writing, as the suppressed sadistic desires of the Abbe de Coulmier, which find their resolution in his bloody, but inevitable, end.

“Conversation, like other [portions of the anatomy],[runs more smoothly when] lubricated,” purrs Peter Glover’s brilliant Marquis, puckering a Cupid’s bow mouth and rearranging his bulging silk bathrobe. “Come and sit on my knee, so you don’t miss a word.”

Andy McQuade’s production is eloquent, funny and, ultimately, disturbing. The script is sharp and playful, and the cast deliver it with uniformly well-controlled timing and a lightness of touch that belie the demands of the piece. Glover is excellent – initially flouncing in powdered wig and flirting with maids; and later crawling on the floor, nude, and scrawling the walls with his own excrement.

He is a wonderful storyteller, “chaperoning us through the dark waters of the soul”, with snapshots of his lustful horror stories, while his captors try to stifle him with increasingly barbaric methods. We are often uncertain whether to laugh or shudder; whether we sit in judgement or are ourselves prurient spectators, craning for a glimpse of naked flesh.

Lauren Kellegher as de Sade’s hysterical wife is also a pleasure, bribing the doctor to silence her husband so that she can be received into polite society’s garden parties once more. Her lines swell to fill the recesses of the room without toppling into farce. Initially self-conscious, Chris Brown’s Abbe grows into the role, and his descent from light-hearted liberal churchman to the architect of the Marquis’s torture is as well handled as his anguish when he recognises the hypocrisy of his actions.

“I did not forge the mind of man, filling it with rancour and blood lust,” taunts the Marquis, confronted with the death of the maid Madeleine after a prisoner re-enacted one of his stories. “Don’t hate me because I turned the key.”

Till 11 November 2012, Wednesday to Sunday
White Rabbit Cocktail Club
125 Stoke Newington Church Street
N16 0UH

REVIEW: QUILLS **** The Public Reviews

October 29, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS **** The Public Reviews

Reviewer: Steven Barfield

This new production of Quills, an Obie award-winning American play from 1995 that was later adapted into a successful film (2000), shows Second Skin Theatre on fine form: the production will not disappoint anyone who believes theatre should be vital, challenging and visceral. The theatre company’s new permanent home is in the basement of the White Rabbit in Stoke Newington and this is the strangely enough, the London premiere of this critically well regarded play as well as the first play in the company’s new home. Andy McQuade, the director, is a Fringe Report award-winning fringe director, as well as artistic director of Second Skin Theatre.

It is a performance with much fine (and in certain cases brave) acting, as well as astute direction; the small basement space of the cocktail bar ( you can buy a special Marquis de Sade cocktail upstairs, if you are feeling brave), is so intimate that the audience will have no choice but to listen to the debate in what is above all an uncompromising, rigorous play of idea embedded in some remarkable characters that is fiercely relevant to today. It is a play and production that is as outrageous and thought-provoking as much as it often riotously funny and sometimes tragic. It should be noted that the play isn’t intended to be historically accurate and the horrible death of the Marquis on stage was not what happened to him in real life.

France 1806 and the Marquis De Sade has been confined to the asylum of Charenton, run by the Enlightenment figure of the Abbé du Coulmier who believes in a therapeutic rather than punitive regime. But against the hospital’s rules, de Sade is secretly smuggling out his stories created during his writing therapy to a scandalised, but greedy public, via a seamstress and laundress Madeleine “Maddy” . There is a battle of wills between the Abbé and more traditional Dr. Royer-Collard, a medical practitioner, who is an upwardly mobile bourgeois, building his own chateau, complete with a young and bored wife. Dr. Royer-Collard has little time or inclination for humane treatment of inmates, especially of the Marquis he judges an evil rebel against the social order he represents. There is a second battle of wills between the establishment who wish to stop him and the Marquis, who is desperately determined to write, even though it will lead to his physical destruction: in ink, in wine, even in blood. The situation will have an unhappy ending for almost everyone and without giving the jagged plot twists away, by the end we’ll see some abrupt changes of character as hidden aspects are revealed as well as the astonishing ebb and then flow of the enterprising Marquis’ fortunes as fiction writer.

Peter Glover makes for a fantastically exuberant de Sade; at turns lascivious, provocative and vulnerable, in what is something of a tour de force of acting that goes from high camp to pathos. He spends part of the play completely naked and in this case he is brave. Chris Brown as the Abbé is a sensitive and humane soul, gently spiritual, but Brown gives full weight to his transformation into a kind of monster due to the taunting gambits and refusal to abjure from writing of the Marquis. The relationship between De Sade and the Abbé is almost a love affair of sorts, a ritual where De Sade tempts him and produces some powerful sorties. Stephen Connery-Brown’s Royer-Collard is a splendid example of humbug, selfishness, hypocrisy and social climbing while Lauren Kellegher’s Renee Pelagie, the wife of the Marquis is an equally funny lampoon of a woman who sees her marriage to her notorious husband as something to be traded on the stock exchange of social gossip. Nika Khitrova’s Madeleine manages to show a young and impoverished woman caught between profanity and virtue, recognising that the Marquis is much like the Gothic villains in the fictions she loves.

The production is balanced between Grand-Guignol style horror and the humanity and vulnerability of the characters and is thus a beguiling one, although its important to say that what makes this play so provocative is the way our sympathies change as the play progresses: we become closer to the unfortunate, if in many ways utterly repellent Marquis due to the transformation of the supposedly good and morally virtuous characters. But it is also a debate that is far from concluded about censorship and its limits and the way mainstream society demonises those it sees as potentially dangerous, even if such danger lies only in their imagination; should we censor or do we run the risk of merely refusing the deeply buried secrets in societies own unconscious?

Runs until 11th November

REVIEW: QUILLS The Flaneur Art Blog

October 29, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS The Flaneur Art Blog

A quill as a weapon

by ALESSANDRA CIANETTI on Oct 29, 2012 • 12:15 am

1806. Insane asylum. Charenton. France. The Marquis de Sade, sentenced to life, starts recording thoughts and philosophies that have scandalised the whole nation.

2012. New theatre venue at the White Rabbit Cocktail Club. London. UK. Second Skin Theatre’s fifth season opens with Doug Wright’s Obie-award winning play Quills , a re-imagining of the Marquis de Sade’s incarceration at Charenton’s insane asylum.

What is the role of censorship? Can a quill became a weapon? What weapons do institutions have to use to restore morality?

In Quills, the Marquis de Sade is the centre of a discussion about the meaning of freedom, the freedom of challenging the current morality and pushing the boundaries of the current hypocrisy. He appears as a fresh character that has no limits to his creativity. When he sees his right to write with ink and paper negated, he starts to use bed sheets and wine and when also this becomes too scary for the institutions, he uses the only source of writing possible without tools: his blood. An endless stream of words that digs into the hidden needs of human beings, the secret sexual desires that we do not have access to in our conscious life. He does it without fear. He writes everything, demonstrating the power of words and the effort society makes to silence scary and untold truths.

Spectators are attracted by the strength of the Marquis’s character, willing to carry on with his art in order to show that the consequences of art are not art’s fault but a result of human nature. We are carried with him in a fight against the conventions of political institutions, Church and society, represented also by his comical wife (performed brilliantly by  Lauren Kellegher) who epitomises all the opportunism of a world were every sexual desire must be restrained and locked out of sight.

Horrified and amused by Quills, spectators follow the attempts of different characters to ‘save’ both the status quo and the Marquis. The attempts at rescuing him from his madness (the madness of the arts?) will only end up transforming the written cruelty into real tortures.

Until November 11, 2012

White Rabbit Cocktail Club in Stoke Newington



October 28, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS Write Out Loud
Review by Alain English on 27th October 2012
After their West End debut with Mario Vargas Llosa’s “La Chunga” last year, Second Skin Theatre raise the bar up another level with this production Doug Wright’s “Quills”.  There will be some in the audience familiar with the movie of the same name starring Kate Winslet and Geoffrey Rush.  Indeed, one suspects that the titular character in the play, the Marquis de Sade who delights in tales of obscenity, sex and violence would have thrived in the modern world.  Hell, he might even be writing for the tabloids covering the Jimmy Saville case, a story that would have suited him perfectly.  So in this respect the production is well-timed.
The play relates the incarceration of the Marquis de Sade in a French lunatic asylum, and the effects his salacious writings and defiantly rebellious attitude have on his supposed reformers.
Bravely standing in for his leading man Peter Glover, director Andy McQuade assumes the role of the Marquis.  He brings a really physical arch humour to the role, embracing the character’s innuendoes with a relish that made me think of the Joker from Batman.  His supporting cast ranging from Nika Khitrova as tragic maid Madeleine and Chris Brown as the doomed Abbe de Coulmier all fit into the macabre grotesque atmosphere of the piece.
Mike Lee’s splendid set, laid out out lengthways on the basement of the White Rabbit Club, gives a perfect stinking sordid backdrop to the actors that really involves the audience – this is as intimate as theatre really gets.
Running to the 11th November, “Quills” is a perfect winter treat. Recommended.


October 28, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS – Le Doon

Review by Laura Muldoon (freelance writer for DIVA Magazine)

Let down at the last minute by my theatre friend, I descended alone into the spooky basement at the White Rabbit in Stoke Newington to take in the brand new production of Quills by the Second Skin Theatre Company under the direction of Andy McQuade. The painted black brickwork glistened as I made my way down the narrow staircase into the dimly lit dungeon venue where the play was to be performed. The atmosphere created by this gothic, prison-like setting was excitingly immersive and perfectly timed with the play opening so close to Halloween. The set was beautifully laced with crucifixes and skulls, an excellent reflection of the plays grisly trajectory. Thoughts ran through my mind of being locked down here alone, a frightening prospect. I looked over to see a fellow reviewer being harangued by obvious Second Skin enthusiast and stealthily let myself be swallowed by the darkness as I fumbled with a delicious glass of merlot which sloshed over my notes.

Quills is set in Charenton, a lunatic asylum and a modern day nightmare, managed by the newly appointed Dr Royer Collard (Stephen Connery Brown), whose main motivation is keeping his highly-sexed wife distracted with a luxurious new mansion. It is here where the Marquis de Sade (Peter Glover) has been imprisoned after one too many masochistic indiscretions much to the embarrassment of his highly strung wife, Renee (Lauren Kelleger). Renee is willing to pay handsomely, through donations to the asylum, to have her husband imprisoned indefinitely in order for her to be free to regain her reputation amongst French high society, so a mutually rewarding agreement is soon met. Kelleger provides a truly comedic performance which provides lots of laughs, but is also unpinned with a deep sadness as she has become resigned to a life where she no longer remembers how it feels to walk down a street without suffering insult, which echoed to me the life of people who have been involuntarily flung into the sycophantic media limelight in Britain today.

Dr Collard’s counterpart at the asylum is the Abbe de Coulmier (Chris Brown) who cuts a staid and sensible figure in the face of the spirited and decadent Collard. The Marquis bursts onto the stage, a man beyond redemption, with a white painted face and a lasciviously, devilish grin pasted onto his face 90% of the time. A camp, larger than life figure, the fluidity of his sexuality was demonstrated by his outward appearance. He constantly made advances at most people but was particularly enthralled by Madeleine (Nika Khitrova) an innocent seamstress, dressed in virginal white who works at the asylum and the sexuality oozes off of everything he touches and says. It made my stomach flip, sometimes with revulsion, when I heard the stories of depravity which he narrates and simultaneously with excitement of the illicit and forbidden. The Marquis is gradually stripped of all that he holds dear, his wine, his home comforts and finally his writing tools. After recently listening to a radio programme about a woman who was compelled to swallow knives for fear that she ironically might die if she did not, I saw that same insane desperation in the Marquis and it was quite obvious that he or others will die if he cannot write. This was acutely apparent through the intensely dark performance from Peter Glover.

The Marquis’s plight raises a lot of thought-provoking questions for the audience which are very current, for instance, is a writer responsible for actions of their readers? The Marquis is eventually quelled from writing forever as the play concludes and I don’t think I would have been the only one feeling like that was a shame despite some of the consequences of his writing were truly horrific. The Abbe, played by Chris Brown is like a rock through the play until he too begins to crumble when his moral compass becomes skewed. At the beginning of the play I felt that Brown was a little wooden and quiet but by the end, his meticulous thinking and quiet sensibility is somewhat soothing. What I thought at the beginning as a negative, was now a positive which is indicative of this whole production. By the end no one is the same as who they thought they were at the start.

REVIEW: QUILLS – UK Theatre Network

October 28, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS – UK Theatre Network

Quills by Second Skin Theatre

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 28th Oct 2012 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin

If they can be dreamt, they can be done.
Second Skin Theatre’s fifth season opens with Doug Wright’s Obie-award winning play Quills, a re-imagining of the Marquis de Sade’s incarceration at Charenton’s insane asylum. This production marks the launch of London’s newest and most intimate theatre venue in Stoke Newington – the White Rabbit Cocktail Club.

After catching the spirit of Llosa’s wonderful play La Chunga so perfectly that the author himself endorsed the production and an intriguing take on Edgar Allen Poe at St. Mary’s church, director Andy McQuade now explores the issues of censorship and the nature of evil in this fascinating and sardonically witty production. After the leading actor had fallen ill, Andy McQuade took over the role of the Marquis de Sade and very successfully so.

A new director has arrived at the mental hospital of Charenton. Dr Royer-Collard is not satisfied with the work of his predecessor. He is looking for a more stringent atmosphere – a return to shackles, thumb screws and pillories to keep the patients tranquil. Abbé de Coulmier, who is personally responsible for the Marquis de Sade, is absolutely opposed to the new regimen: “How can inhumane treatment produce a civilized demeanour?” The director insists. Pressurized by de Sade’s outraged wife Renée Palagie, who finds herself a social outcast because of her infamous husband, Royer-Collard won’t tolerate any more creative output by de Sade. A new manuscript has been found! Despite the Abbé’s utmost dedication to reforming the misfit, he cannot stop de Sade’s creative flow. Finally, the Abbé gives in to Royer-Collard’s pressure and takes away de Sade’s quills and paper. Yet the Marquis is very ingenious indeed.

Doug Wright’s play identifies hypocrisy and evil in man. De Sade writes torture pornography to get his hands on the attractive Madeleine. Although everybody condemns his writings, he has a gigantic following. There is a thirst for his erotic stories that de Sade is more than willing to quench. Director Royer-Collard sees himself as a benefactor to humanity but has an ostentatious chateau built by the sycophantic architect Prouix. The good-natured Abbé de Coulmier, so opposed to cruelty and violence, detects that he, too, is fallible. The humour of this challenging play is very dark indeed as we find ourselves rooting for the sardonic and witty Marquis de Sade and pitying the well-meaning Abbé.

Andy McQuade inhabits his role completely as he struts across the stage and exclaims: “In conditions of adversity the artist thrives.” Remorseless and undefeated to the very end, he successfully defies censorship while lusting after the attractive Madeleine. Chris Brown conveys the doubts and uncertainties of the Abbé who eventually opens the gates of hell. Stephen Connery-Brown is very good as the new director of Charenton as he falls under the spell of de Sade’s wife Renée Pelagie, a comic tour-de-force by Lauren Kellegher. Nika Khitrova convinces as the laundry maid Madeleine, who gladly succumbs to the Marquis’ charms as long as he provides her with new stories.

I thought I discovered traces of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed in the play which might or might not be a coincidence. Be that as it may, this is a very challenging piece – highly entertaining because of its ironic humour but also dark and disturbing. I enjoyed every minute of it.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 11 November 2012

White Rabbit Cocktail Club, 125 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UH

Andy McQuade as the Marquis de Sade

October 28, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on Andy McQuade as the Marquis de Sade

Photo credit: Venus Raven

REVIEW: QUILLS Everything Deserves a Review

October 27, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS Everything Deserves a Review

Duncan Stevens has written several reviews of plays produced by Second Skin Theatre. Or to be exact, he has hosted reviews written by a collection of unusual characters. This time, for Quills, a deceased horse makes an appearance… 


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