Self Check is a play about identity, tracking the stories of four teens in group therapy at a psychiatric hospital. We are introduced initially to Scarlet as she registers for admission, and then to Harley, Justin and Emily, each with their own demons having brought them to this place.
A reflective piece which ponders the correlation between self identity, external acceptance and how this impacts on sense of self
This gem is brought to us by Sandburg Plays Scotland Theater Company, a group of talented teenagers who have written the material themselves specifically to bring to the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s a reflective piece which ponders the correlation between self identity, external acceptance and how this impacts on sense of self, mental health and ability to thrive. Utilising Moment Work, Tectonic Theatre Project's devising method, they explored common themes arising for themselves and their peers, and wrote it into this contemplative consideration of how the supports we have around us can have a monumental impact on our ability to self actuate and succeed.
There are moments of brilliance in this performance, in particular the scenes where Harley - a non binary identifying person - experience shopping for their prom. A screen divides the stage, with one side featuring Harley’s actual experience - a deeply religious and shut down mother, refusing to accept difference and embrace her child’s happiness. On the other side, a totally accepting, nurturing mother who offers recommendations for Harley on what coloured bowties and shirts look best together. The interplay of these two scenarios is heartbreaking, as we experience the impact on the two Harleys - one shut down and defeated; the other carefree and excited. The scenes with the very young Harleys is also ingenious and incredibly well acted. The character of Scarlet is similarly exceptionally written - diagnosed with a personality disorder, she is engulfed by the abusive Lucy, the nightmare voice which dominates and controls her every waking moment. This plays out wonderfully throughout the piece, with the support and acceptance of her peers helping her defeat this inner evil.
The characters of Emily and Justin, whilst relatable, were not as interesting and didn’t draw our attentions. This wasn’t due to the acting talents of the actors, who were enthusiastic and brought the characters to life. It was more that the writing behind the characters of Harley and Scarlet were so strong and so complex, that they dwarfed the other two personas. Scenes featuring Emily and Justin felt extemporaneous, so perhaps featuring more prominently on Harley and Scarlet would elevate those two characters’ stories, and a reduction in the scenes with Emily and Justin could account for this change. It would be sufficient to have Emily and Justin narrate their experiences in group therapy.
After the performance, the group bravely stayed on stage and asked for questions and feedback from the audience. Feedback is nerve wracking for any performer, and this highlighted the motivations and drive for excellence of these talented young people, in delivering a piece that would be the best possible fit. A pleasant and thought provoking performance to start the day.