Review: Scratches, VAULT Festival

Plain Heroines’ Scratches turns a tricky subject into theatrical gold (curtain) at the VAULT Festival

“I said I was wearing the socks because if your feet are warm, you’re more likely to orgasm.
Which is true, by the way”

With a lilac suit to die for and a gold foil fringe curtain that would look lovely in my living room, Aoife Kennan’s Girl bounds onto the stage for Scratches with real panache. She sets about recounting the travails of maintaining a good sex life when living in a box room but as she hesitates, as she skirts around certain details, we see that she’s easing us into something altogether more serious.

So serious in fact that she can’t even name it, it’s just ‘the thing’ and that thing is self-harm. It’s a clever and sensitive approach to a subject that requires such delicacy in its portrayal but it is also clear-eyed and admirably frank in the details that it does not spare us. Perhaps conscious of this weightiness, writer Kennan disrupts this confessional with the arrival of Best Friend (Zak Ghazi-Torbati) who bursts onto the stage with purple capes and glitter bombs.  

At first, he’s just an injection of queer fabulousness, trying to perk up the mood. But in reality he’s there as a true friend, an embodiment of the support system that can be so invaluable in dealing with all the crap that life can throw at us. Scratches then dances around Girl’s story, slipping back in time to when she first started to “feel sad”, introducing the loved ones around her who variously co-sign, ignore and eventually confront her issues.

Kennan’s genial stage presence has something of Carey Mulligan’s gently disarming directness to it and she’s highly engaging throughout, guiding our hand softly but determinedly through this emotional minefield. And Ghazi-Torbati is wonderfully charismatic but beautifully considered as he recognises when to cede the limelight that Best Friend so craves. A bold and brave piece of theatre. 

Running time: 60 minutes
Photos: Steven Gregson
Scratches is booking at VAULT Festival until 5th February

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