Scribble is the winner of the inaugural Assembly Roxy Theatre (ART) award and has been developed through Playwrights’ Studio Scotland Mentoring Programme and played at the Traverse Theatre’s 2016 Hothouse showcase for emerging Scottish artists. It is always refreshing to see homebred productions at the Fringe and Scribble has been recognized for its potential though the current piece is not quite there.
Written by Andy Edwards, directed by Amy Gilmartin, and performed by Alan MacKenzie, this is a very simple piece running at around 40 minutes in one of the intimate spaces of Assembly Roxy. It is part of a wave of new work we can see at the Fringe focusing on discussing and highlighting mental health and attempting to forge a way in which we can approach mental health openly without stigma. Looking particularly at OCD and anxiety Edward’s play attempts to bring Ross’s life and his struggles to the stage through MacKenzie encouraging a discussion between the audience members and Ross about everyday difficulties and questions. MacKenzie then highlights the extra stresses he goes through when facing these questions in an honest portrayal.
The play has an unfamiliar actor reading parts of the script, a new one everyday, which may have been there to highlight the uncertainty in daily life of mental health and its prominent place within the population. This is only mentioned online and not within the programme which might have been why on the day I found it an unnecessary addition to the performance, something I personally found held the smoothness of the production back, and only on further reading did I have some understanding of what the creative team had been attempting to achieve with this addition. There are many aspects of this production, such as the transition from the innocent questions about what type of cereal to choose to more intrusive thoughts such as an interest in children, that were unexpected and approached too quickly and briefly to do anything but confuse the audience and leave them feeling uncomfortable.
I appreciated Scribble as an open honest look at mental health and one man’s struggle and methods of coping but as a theatrical piece I felt it was selling itself a little short. The production focused around the fact this was draft 49 and as yet an unfinished piece which I understood from the aspect of the ongoing nature of mental health and how it is something people must live with continuously. However it would do this thought provoking show more justice to label it as a spoken word piece or an ongoing discussion than a finished theatrical performance as I think when I left the theatre I was left feeling that I hadn’t seen a play but instead a work in progress that needed a lot more work.