Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Scarred

Devised and written by Firebrand Theatre Collective
Carriageworks Theatre Studio, Leeds
(2005)

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Firebrand (Effie Arestides, Oscar Bloo, Fiona Christie, Claire Stephenson and Fiona Walker) create theatre which sets out to challenge our conceptions of mental health. Its work is unremittingly didactic and eclectic in form.

Scarred uses monologue, song, dramatic interaction and a pounding soundtrack to explore the experience of self-harming: the cutting and burning we all know is there, but usually don't think about. Although the examples of the acts of self-harming that we see are mimed, the show is in-your-face. No one could sit through the intense twenty minutes and not be moved.

The three actors (all of whom have experience of self-harming) are talented and they demand our attention. The action is explosive. Thank god it only goes on for twenty minutes!

The play is followed by a question and answer/discussion session.

The form of the play is that of parallel monologues. The tease is - is this story the actor's 'real life' story? The reality is - this doesn't matter! Firebrand drew on their own experience and the experience of people they knew or met through fieldwork.

The play rises above special pleading, and yet there is something of the self-indulgent about it. Perhaps this is because, in the final, harsh, analysis the only explanation offered for self-harming is that it is a cry for love, help, attention.... and maybe this can also be said of Scarred. Except that the play is more prosocial than the lonely masochistic act.

However, it would have been useful to know more about the backgrounds of the 'cases' given, to have dug deeper into their psychology. In fact, it would have been a more satisfying theatrical experience if the monologues had been linked into a drama which asked questions and took us somewhere.

Having said that, it is a theatrical experience you will not forget, and, most likely, Scarred will broaden our experience of life. And more than this, it has mesmerizing moments and performers with both stage presence and great courage.

Reviewer: Ray Brown