The Shape of the Pain

China Plate’s The Shape of the Pain is an innovative artistic and scientific collaboration combining words, sound and projection to start a conversation about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CPRS). Based on director Rachel Bagshaw’s own experience of the condition, Chris Thorpe writes of one woman’s struggle to articulate her understanding of feeling in consistent agonising pain.

So haunting and visceral, that it stains the mind long after the show has ended.

Hannah McPake is absolute in her presence in the space flanked by intimidatingly large metal panels catching and reflecting the lights. McPake is eloquent and toneless in her delivery, which is effectively chilling when giving the description of the pain – seen, heard and felt in shapes and colours. This imagery is brought into existence through the powerful collaboration of Melanie Wilson’s original score and Joshua Pharo’s lighting and projection. With the aural and visual inception, the audience are hurled right into the pain with McPake, and stay immersed, open-mouthed in this sensory experience for the duration of the performance.

After a mind-blowing first half of the show, it does not continue to take us anywhere. We are stuck with McPake and her cold indifference, lost in the words and sound of the pain. Every time it comes to the end, it starts up again and we are going through another stream of words, sweeping projections and shadows cast by the flare of lights. This may indeed be a metaphor symbolising the pain and it’s waves of harassment, but it is taxing on the audience’s patience when we feel we are being starved of any satisfactory conclusion, and instead are listening to a reiterated speculation. By the second half, we have adjusted to the overwhelming ingenuity of the technical aspects of the production, and have spent enough time with McPake that we begin to interpret her icy detachment as bitter and sullen. The narrative begins to stagnate and becomes directionless.

Still, Bashaw and Thorpe’s production is so haunting and visceral, that it stains the mind long after the show has ended. 

Reviews by Isabella Javor

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The Blurb

‘I don't have to remember being in pain. I'm not sure that's something we can do. And in my case, it's irrelevant. You can't remember something that's still happening.’ One woman attempts to articulate her experience of physical pain. Pain with no apparent cause. Also, she’s met someone, and they want to make this work. A new show from a Fringe First award-winning team exploring life in extremity and the joy that can be found there. Commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre/The New Wolsey Theatre. Supported by artsdepot. Funded by The Wellcome Trust.