Theatre review: Scorch

Kes wakes up one morning 'with boobs. Like an alien.'

Amy McAllister in Scorch Picture: Ciaran Bagnall
Amy McAllister in Scorch Picture: Ciaran Bagnall

Star rating: ****

Venue: Roundabout @ Summerhall (Venue 26)

She looks like a growing teenage girl, but she feels like a boy. Everyone thinks she fancies Ryan Gosling, but no – she wants to be him.

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    She’s sweet-natured and vulnerable, likeable and funny, in her hoodie, dancing small, disjointed moves between scenes, as she experiments with being the person she wants to be: a regular “dude”.

    Played with quiet charisma by Amy McAllister, Kes has a laid-back kind of masculine sexiness, but is also as uncertain and awkward as any other 17-year-old might be. Writer Stacey Gregg’s beautifully-observed script, delivered directly to the audience, captures the joy of someone able to talk about their sexuality for the first time, but also reveals the story behind this.

    Kes meets a girl called Jules online, who believes that she is biologically male. They start a relationship, but when it becomes apparent that Kes has a woman’s body, Jules accuses her of sexual assault. Inspired by recent court cases, the play asks: should someone who identifies as a different sex to the one they’re born with have to explicitly ‘out’ themselves every time they sleep with someone? Or should this, in 2016, be irrelevant?

    In the cosy circumference of the Roundabout theatre, we become a part of Kes’s ‘meet-up group’ and hear her story. While this isn’t a play that sets out to answer all of the questions it sets up, it depicts the negative effects of a world that still sees people who move between genders as ‘other’. Is she the alien, or are we, Kes asks at one point.

    But the story and staging ultimately breaks down such divides and we are left all sitting together at the end. “I’m so glad you guys are here,” Kes says. “Thanks.”

    Until 28 August. Today 6:05pm.