Skins Series Finale: A Modern Midsummer Dream?

‘The course of love never did run smooth.’ – Lysander,  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I i 134

The love triangles, gender confusion, forest magic, lovers and happy endings… sound familiar?

The Skins Finale is an elegant twist on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, involving contemporary relationships that deny the need for the ideal Petrarchan lover or a traditional comedic ending of marriage. Franky loves Matty, Matty loves Liv (but also Franky), Minnie loves Franky, Liv loves Matty. These love imbalances mimic those in Dream. Given that Skins is a 21st century television drama, however, (and one that is not a generally romantic comedy), we are compelled throughout by the possibility that all may not be resolved. In Dream the lighthearted tone is created by a distancing from the emotions of the characters in order to poke fun at the nature of lovers. Incidentally, this is excellently done in Headlong’s new interpretation, currently touring, in characterising ‘fairy-inspired-love’ as camp and pathetic and ‘real love’ as overwrought and sincere. Instead, it is emotion that predominates in Skins.

The removal from Bristol to the Somerset countryside sets the series finale firmly in the Pastoral tradition. The characters are lost in the forest on the way to a wedding and the dualities of this forest setting are explored. The group seemingly have boundless freedom to go anywhere, to love, to drink and to smoke. However, their arrival into the forest is a forced event, when their van breaks down, which is comparable to the banishments in As You Like It. Danger exists, though no harm arrives, as Frankie nearly falls down a ravine. One may compare this with As You Like It and the near danger of starvation that Orlando and Adam suffer upon their arrival into the forest, and the laws of enclosure which set up a possible loss of livelihood for Corin. Comparisons could also be made with Hermia who finds herself lost and alone in the forest.

The fairy magic of Dream manifests in the drug-induced experience of Franky and her subsequent, quickly changing temperament. Teenage angst, a fairly tame theme nowadays, is acutely portrayed as Franky battles with the false concept of ‘normality’. However clichéd the idea is of ‘self-discovery’ during teenage years, it is nonetheless real.

Having watched many a romantic comedy, I realised a while ago what makes Four Weddings and a Funeral and perhaps also The Holiday, specifically modern, succesful comedies; marriage is denied as the ubiquitous Happy Ending. Finally, in Four Weddings it was not necessary for a marriage ceremony to signify a steady, loving relationship (though that of course depends on a belief in the unfailing power of love to transcend circumstance and last forever.) Skins deliberately subverts the marriage ending by explicitly including a ‘non-marriage’. We are not expected to believe that Rich and Grace will be always together, but the implication is that they will last a while. The event to which the programme looks forward is unresolved because they never marry. But the ending itself is ‘happy’; vows are exchanged between a boyfriend and a girlfriend; the tyranny of power (her parents) is overcome, in a brilliant post-modern twist when Prof. Blood announces, ‘I will take no further part in this ridiculous melodrama,’ alluding to the fact that actually, Skins is brilliantly, realistically melodramatic; and the relationship divides are mended. And in classic Skins style we conclude with a pissup and dancing.

Photo from the Skins Website Blog