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Scorch review at the Roundabout, Edinburgh – ‘Delicate exploration of gender identity’

Amy McAllister in Scorch

Inspired by the story of Justine McNally, sentenced to three years in prison for engaging in a sexual relationship with a teenage girl who believed her to be a boy, Stacey Gregg’s Scorch is a delicate, intelligent piece exploring the complexities of gender identity. Performed at the Paines Plough Roundabout space, it’s a potentially exposing show but it’s handled with care and sensitivity by director Emma Jordan.

Since the age of eight, Amy McAllister’s Kes has felt a bit like an alien: favouring boys’ clothes, binding breasts and frequenting forums where people discuss the different labels for who they are and how they feel: non-binary, trans, asexual. Gregg explores the ways in which the availability of all these categories can be simultaneously liberating, confusing and terrifying.

Kes is so blissed out about being in a relationship with a girl that she doesn’t consider the implications. In Gregg’s play there is no deception. Kes is Kes. No lies have been told. But the girl feels as if she’s been betrayed and the police get involved: words like ‘fraud’ and ‘assault’ are used.

There’s a wider discussion about consent that the play doesn’t fully address, but it’s a tender and considered piece of writing that resists pathos.

McAllister’s performance hits all the right notes. She’s amiable and open, with a dash of teenage swagger but also vulnerable, her body ticking and twitching as if there were something living within her. She’s completely at ease in the in-the-round space too, making full use of its potential for intimacy.

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Intimate, delicate piece exploring the complexities of gender identity