What exactly does "slipskin" mean? Sami Stone's touching show – part stand-up, part storytelling, part lament for things lost – does advance several suggestions. But the true definition is saved till the very end… a fitting sign-off for a story about words and their meanings, the things we teach our children, and how simple pleasures can often be best.
Stone is a multi-talented performer. She is engaging and confident in her stand-up; at home in a packed-out but intimate space, she builds instant connections with her audience. She's also a pretty impressive impressionist – her Marge Simpson is all but indistinguishable from the real thing – and her occasional alter ego, a kind of malevolent gremlin who makes her read things she knows she really shouldn't, is both genuinely scary and beautifully observed.
The topics she covers are varied at first, then narrow down as the show's themes emerge. Life as an actor, breeds of dogs, and twentieth-century artworks all feature in Stone's repertoire – and she's unafraid of controversy in the service of comedy, lampooning topics from Buddhism to wheat intolerance via her own veganism. The overall tone is of Radio 4 gone ever-so-slightly rogue; only once, when she casts the Trump-supporting electorate as a tantruming child, did I think I detected a hint of intellectual sneering.
There's an overt theme running through all this – to do with delight at the natural world, and how a childhood appreciation for the outdoors can set us up for life. Stone laments how words like "acorn" and "cygnet" have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, and asks us whether part of the pleasure of childhood is being slowly erased. Cleverly, she contrasts this with beautiful words from other languages, which capture the sense of contentment and wonder which time among nature can bring us.
And there's another, subtler theme at work too: how simple things, like walks and solitude or even a glass of water, can promote well-being and boost mental health. At times these multiple threads seem to head in different directions, and I'd have liked a little more reassurance we were on a well-defined path, perhaps by setting down some stronger motifs which Stone could return to. But there is a purpose to it all – an unexpected and affecting conclusion – which draws the diverse topics together in a thought-provoking and closely-argued finale.
Slipskin has its laugh-aloud moments, but it's also a gentle meditation, an appeal to remember the important things in life. It's an impressive hour from Stone – and a well-thought-through, subtle, salient example of comedy with a message.