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Dead Skin

"a love letter to myself, to my identity, my sexuality"

For too long, young girls have lacked agency in literature, argues playwright Leneikka Denne. It's time for teenagers to be heard.

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Show: Dead Skin
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Dead Skin: Heard and Seen at Seventeen

Date: 24 Feb 2021

When I look back on writing Dead Skin I cringe, cackle and cry.

I wrote it aged 17. Its characters, Andie and Andrea, are 17. They work in a convenience store at the same time in their lives. Although disconnected by time, they find each other through love in that heated moment when the world really does fucking explode.

It was written only two years ago yet the play is like a time capsule, one that transports me back to being that age.

It started out as a love letter to my mum. It became a love letter to myself, to my identity, my sexuality, and my celebrating that.

I was going to cut half the play until I realised that the rawness, grit and the heightened way in which the characters view the world are the things that make the play work. Dead Skin flings us back into the world of a teenager because it was written by a teenager, rather than by an adult reminiscing on fading memories of first love and growing up.

Dead Skin won the State Theatre Company of South Australia’s Young Playwright’s Award.

A lot of people described the work as a “young lesbian couple romance” or “a queer coming-of-age story”. I believe the work is much, much more than that. Dead Skin is about the intensity of the maternal bond and the fleeting nature of love viewed from the perspective of a teenage girl as told by a 17-year-old writer.

I am immensely grateful that I have the opportunity to give a voice to young women. For too long, young girls have lacked agency in literature. Their arcs and action are often dependent on others – or are non-existent.

I view Dead Skin as an ensemble of women rather than a protagonist-driven piece. All of the characters have their own journey and I believe that representing real women onstage is the first step to dismantling patriarchy and preconceived notions of womanhood in order to allow women to celebrate themselves – both on and off the stage.

And honestly, I’m also sick of queerness being a marketing point to validate storytelling by LGBTIQ+ creators. For me, Dead Skin was a way of expressing my sexual identity without putting a label on it. I hope it will help other young people celebrate their own identity and normalise queerness.

Finally, my biggest hope for Dead Skin is that young people will come to see it – mothers and daughters, best friends, high school lovers – and that they feel represented onstage when they watch this work.

It’s time.

It’s time for us teenagers to be heard.

Dead Skin plays at Kings Cross Theatre, April 2-17.  

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