“Scorch” follows the story of gender-curious Kes, who identifies with the non-binary label “their”, in their search to address the social issues that are currently prevalent within, and surrounding, the trans-community. The piece opens with Kes hugging their knees on a flimsy plastic chair amongst the audience, rolling their eyes at the abundance of negative media coverage concerning the many hardships and premature deaths of transpeople, which suggests to the audience that the piece will entail a journey towards self-discovery. Whilst this is coming-of-age tale that explores the relatively common feelings associated with first love, there is a bitter irony here, as Kes’ story of teen crushes eventually spirals downwards into sexual assault charges and prison, becoming yet another tale to feature a negative trans representation.
Performed single-handedly by the talented Amy McAllister, Scorch is fifty-five minute insight into the life of Kes, a teenager who insists that instead of fancying Ryan Gosling, they want to be him; Stacey Gregg’s script is restless, exhilarating, and has genuine moments of hilarity. Unhappy with their body, unsure of labels, but bursting with excitement and enthusiasm for newfound love, Kes invites the audience to be part of their regular community group discussions, confessing their crushes, secrets, and suddenly – crimes. McAllister carries the show flawlessly, her performance engaging and unique, however the show’s run time could have benefitted with an extra half hour as the story abruptly rattles through an assault case filed against Kes. It feels as though a large chunk of narrative is lost, and the play rushes through moments that could easily be slowed down for clarity. The beginning of the play is strong and relatable, filled with charming comments on the internet that provide an ultimate safety net of anonymity for transpeople to be themselves, such as likening chest dysphoria to that scene in Alien. (You know the one.)
However during the second half of the show, the audience suddenly become distanced and uninvolved, and although possibly purposeful reflecting Kes’ own isolation, it is quite distracting. The limited perspective also becomes confusing, with details about Kes’ actual crime becoming blurred and muddled, and the audience becoming somehow accused of possibly siding against Kes. It is at this point that the material edges into insensitivity, and at the height of Kes’ struggle, important discussions about consent and legal procedures are rapidly overlooked. Sentences are unfinished, as are the audience’s conclusions.
The show feels dated, treating manners – such as not using slurs to refer to trans people- as revelations and feels as though it has been written from an the perspective of an outsider, that attempts to provide an insight into the queer community with a lack of background research: you can’t buy binders in Asda. In this respect, it is alienating to the LGBT audience and even more so in its failure to represent trans people in positive circumstances, despite previously lamenting this very problem. It perpetuates other problematic gender issues such as the need to pass, medical transitioning, and gatekeeping within the community, the topics of which are scattered throughout the text without much notable discussion.
Well-staged, choreographed, and performed: the show does appear to have noble intentions and commendably encourages people to think about social issues that they may not otherwise consider under normal circumstances. However, Scorch’s attempt to fly towards the sun leaves the show burnt out before it can reach a satisfying conclusion.