Scorch – Project Arts Centre – Review by P McGovern
Dates: 13 Feb – 03 Mar
Stacey Gregg’s play, Scorch, presented by Prime Cut theatre company at The Cube, Project Arts Centre, might just as easily be titled Scald or Sear or some such word evoking acute, intense pain. Maybe she had in mind Sylvia Plath’s “scorched to the roots”, for indeed the protagonist, Kes, is often struggling for survival at the extremity of psychological pain as she grapples with the problems of her complex sexual and gender identity in a world where binary simplicity is preferred.
To convey the pangs, self-doubt, hurt, confusion and frustration along the way from pubescence through teenage angst to young adulthood is a considerable challenge. Solo performer Amy McAllister rises to it in style, one minute defiantly asserting Kes’ sexual and gender identity, then shrivelling under the guilt or what her being different may involve for her others: her parents, a romantic partner. The price that may be paid for her exploration of who and what she is, is shattering when it comes.
Language in general and its limitations in describing emotional and psychological realities, accurately and meaningfully, are one of the author’s principal concerns. When Kes takes to social media, she wanders into the world of assumed identities, avatars and false – uncorrected – assumptions, making clear communication even more problematic. Scorch is very much a play for our times.
The intimacy of The Cube’s confined spaces seem perfect for this play. Design, lighting and sound by Ciaran Bagnall are superbly effective, precise and atmospherically appropriate. McAllister’s excellent timing, her physical and vocal flexibility give the piece everything the writer could ask for. Her engagement with the audience involves us intimately in her pilgrimage, without inhibiting our concentration. The seriousness of the subject matter is leavened with moments of wry humour that humanise rather than trivialise the issues involved. The writer, the actor and Emma Jordan’s superb direction combine to ensure that every minute of this 55 minute play engage our total attention. It packs the punch of many plays twice that length and it continues at the Cube, Project Arts Centre until March 3rd.