[Like a Prayer]
Grief, masturbation, and the catholic church – the holy trinity of Tatiana Hotere’s Skin Hunger, a one woman show that explores life after the death of a spouse and how grief can make you unexpectedly horny.
Returning to Q theatre after a sell-out season earlier this year, the show has been reimagined — transformed from a three person performance to a solo rendition, with Hotere passionately acting out all the parts.
Semi autobiographical, Skin Hunger tells the story of the recently widowed Eva and her journey into grief and self discovery — clitoris included. Because contrary to popular belief women don’t stop thinking about or wanting sex after their husbands die. Eva grapples with the ingrained beliefs of her Catholic upbringing, while trying to satiate a very real and human hunger for intimacy.
We missed the show in its last run, but one can’t help feeling Skin Hunger is elevated by its concentration into a one woman show. Tatiana deeply embodies the characters of her story. Slipping into their skin as if possessed, she performs as the Catholic Priest that haunts her youth, her judging sister, her sexually confident best friend Lorraine, and most notably — her husband, Atama. Rich and as familiar as old friends, it feels like Hotere has been destined to play these characters all along.
Sex, masturbation, and an impressive collection of dildos interweave with the themes of grief and shame, both of which Eva must overcome. Humour is the coping system. You’re going to watch this with a heavy sinking feeling in your chest, tears in your eyes, while simultaneously laughing as Eva reenacts a tragic string of failed tinder dates with dildo puppetry.
Within the comedic relief is an important message on how shame is wielded as a means of oppressing women. This shame seeks to manipulate teenage Eva into believing she’s at fault for unwanted advances, and it continues to haunt her into her forties, where she pleads for forgiveness from Jesus for the mere ‘sin’ of thinking about sex.
The double standard for women around sex is undeniable. What Hotere discusses is explicit, but her courage lies in her steadfast refusal to succumb to shame regarding these topics. Skin Hunger seeks to redefine the narrative, debunking the notion that sex is something men do to women. Instead, the show empowers anyone who has ever felt that self-pleasure was taboo and female sexuality a myth.
There were certain elements of the show’s set design that could be further realised; integrating the projector screen further into the performance could tap into greater dramatic and comedic impact. The rapid-fire monologues build tension, but in certain stretches slowing down would enable Hotere to further articulate and allow her dialogue to resonate more with the audience. However, Hotere’s ability to capture the audience with her storytelling outshines any potential critiques. Her unapologetically candid delivery makes you feel as though you’re engaging in an intimate conversation with your best friend over a glass of wine, all while she seamlessly commands the entire stage, dressed in her nightgown.
Skin Hunger is, all in all, a delightful and emotionally touching experience. With unwavering boldness it embraces the chaos of life and love, delivering raw, unfiltered honesty. Not afraid to give rise to what we are all thinking, this show is a welcoming embrace for those seeking a touch of self-love.
Skin Hunger is showing at the Q theatre from 7-11 November, then in the Adelaide Fringe Festival 16-25 Feb 2024.