Scorch

Welcomed back to Edinburgh after its rave performances last year, Scorch is new writing for one performer. It is a refreshing and important take on the negotiation of gender performance in the 21st century. Kes begins as the name chosen for an online gaming avatar, but the male character begins to take over their life. They realise they are gender-curious, and join an ‘LGBTQ ABCDEFG’ discussion group, where they feel they belong. Everything seems to slot into place. But when their love for a girl met online becomes sexual, Kes’ world falls apart.

We are clearly at a point in society where scripts like this one are not merely interesting, but vital.

Amy McAllister is a magnetic presence in the theatre. We see the character before Kes, bubbling with curiosity about everything. Performing feminine identity to appease their parents, we then see the pulses of energy run through them when they talk to the lovely Joules online, when they dress as Kes, and when they talk to their friends in the discussion group - which quickly blurs the boundaries between audience and participant, involving each of us in the support and the debate. In fact, McAllister is so engaging that the few scenes where direction calls for her to be out of the action (in a darkened room, voices play over the speakers), the energy of the room plummets. A couple of the moments between electric choreographed movement and conversational monologue jarr in a way which doesn't contribute to our feeling of Kes’ development, but for the most part the juxtaposition is intense and evocative.

Scorch explores problematic experiences of identity in the 21st century: the intersections of gender-curiosity, burgeoning sexuality, and online interactions, which have no simple answer. For Scorch, the final case depends upon the mutable ways in which empowerment over self-definition can be interpreted by others as identity fraud. Where are the lines between gender fluidity and willful deception? For some in the audience, this will be a question they will never have had to think about before, except as a purely theoretical thought-experiment; for others, it will resound with truth and relatable snapshots of the ways in which gender performance is negotiated today. We are clearly at a point in society where scripts like this one are not merely interesting, but vital. McAllister performs it with such charm and tenderness that many in the audience give Scorch a standing ovation. 

Reviews by Lily Lindon

Assembly George Square Theatre

David O'Doherty: Big Time

★★★★
Roundabout @ Summerhall

Scorch

★★★★
Underbelly, George Square

Fleabag

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Kiri Pritchard-McLean: Appropriate Adult

★★★★
Underbelly Med Quad

Joan

★★★

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

For those who don’t feel like they’re in the right life, online is a place to be yourself. Out in the real world though, things can be very different. A story of first love through the eyes of a gender-curious teen, Scorch examines how the human story often gets lost amidst the headlines. Scorch has played to critical acclaim across Ireland, the UK, Sweden, Germany and Adelaide, winning an Adelaide Fringe Theatre Critics Circle Award (2017), a Fringe First, the Holden Street Theatre Award (2016) and Best New Play: Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards.

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