Touching upon the important topics of white privilege and immigration, YOSIS’s Behind Our Skin is admirable in its endevour – but somewhat problematic in its final product.
French company YOSIS’s promotional photo for Behind Our Skin displays two near-identical women, but both aren’t the focus of its story. The play focuses on two immigrants: Camille (Anne Bertreau – pictured), a Parisian in the UK, and Naysam, a Moroccan in France. Naysam’s story, though, is told by the second women in the photo, Camille’s sister Julie (Sophie Bertreau). And while the first story is engaging, the second one feels somewhat uncomfortable as a second-hand narrative.
As well as performing the role of Camille, Anne Bertreau is also the piece’s writer – and when her character speaks and says that stories need to be told for things to change, she’s right. But who is telling the stories matter as much as the stories that are told. The idea of two sisters telling different migration stories is interesting, but only if both have stories to tell. Similarly, contrasting the experience of a white Frenchwoman migrating to another European country and that of a Muslim Moroccan woman moving to France is also an exciting premise – if those are the two characters recounting their experiences. In Behind Our Skin though, trying to combine the two aforementioned ideas resulted in a somewhat problematic final product.
Nevertheless, the performance itself holds your attention. It’s an event that confirms that storytelling is still a living art-form and one that can bring a lot of conversations into the spotlight. The acting is good on both sides, but Anne Bertreau (as pregnant Camille) is stronger in connecting with the audience. Also, it has to be mentioned that both Sophie and Anne Bertreau, native French speakers, act fluently in English, which is in itself very commendable especially considering the amount of text in Behind Our Skin.
Behind Our Skin touches upon the important topic of white privilege, that rarely gets the attention it deserves. The differences between Camille’s and Naysam’s migrating experience are really staggering, although both are good people. The performance itself had a lot more potential than it realised in the end. Anne Bertreau is a talented writer as proven by Camille’s story, but more thought should be given to whose stories she should tell.