Theatre Review: Scorch

Award-winning play, Scorch, explores the gender queer world of teenager Kes as they seek to understand their identity and the struggle this journey leads them on.

Scorch Kes sits on the ground with text projected on their face.

Scorch is a 55-minute play that takes you on an immersive journey through the mind of the vulnerable and panicked teenager, Kes, as they try to understand the complexities and ethics of gender.

The Cube at Project Arts Centre is the perfect venue for exploring the intimate intricacies which the one-woman monologue delves into and Amy McAllister’s performance is extremely captivating: her use of the space, stamina and pace in the delivery makes this a must-see experience.

The creative team behind Scorch do a fantastic job in producing an abstract and interesting setting. It succeeds in complementing the piece with music, lighting and sound effects which assists in demonstrating the unintelligible, visceral struggle of gender dysphoria.

By constantly breaking the fourth wall, voyeurism is very back and forth, which helps the audience to engage with a compassionate gaze. Adding the nuances of lighting, sound and choreography, the audience is a stream of Kes’ consciousness, while at the same time, acting as judge and jurors. There is no room to disconnect.

It explores the ethical considerations, or lack thereof, in the role of the media by reporting on these cases in tabloid fashion. Condensing the complexities of gender into a 10-word headline could never explain the nuances of Kes’ thoughts, beliefs and actions.


Scorch Kes sits under a giant pink light
IMAGE: Ciarán Bagnall

Scorch also explores how technology has changed our relationship with gender. How it allows for more fluid definitions and determinations and the impact this has on individuals as they seek to understand their gender identity.

Scorch does an excellent job of communicating the story from the inside out. Kes’ lack of language actually helps in understanding their actions. It shows how communication can happen through different mediums as opposed to using stereotypical labels to explain a situation.

As playwright Stacey Gregg explained in an interview with The Guardian:

“It’s about the limitations of language, and of access to language. Kes doesn’t have words for her feelings,” she says. “I’m interested in responses to the play, its interpretation as a trans piece because that seems to ignore aspects of lesbian sexuality. It is as if butch lesbians have gone away – they haven’t – and now we can only talk about this in terms of a medicalised idea of transition from one gender to another.”

It is a wonderful experience that explores a topic that has otherwise been sensationalised and stereotyped without much consideration. If you have any interest in issues surrounding gender fluidity, Scorch is a must see.

Scorch by Stacey Gregg, produced by Prime Cut Productions, runs at the Project Arts Centre until March 3rd. Tickets can be purchased online here.

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