Scorch by Stacey Gregg is a look at the actions of a transgender teenager, brought up in a world of homophobia and sexism.
The protagonist, Kes, played by Amy McAllister, is a 17 year old who secretly identifies as male, he thinks. He brings us through his experience of what he considers normal, like always watching films through the perspective of the male character, and later realising that it isn’t normal for a girl to do this. Though, he likes how at the end of a film, women are just so happy to be loved that they forgive the men for whatever lies they’ve told.
Around his friends and family he still lives as a girl, but online he lives as Kes. He meets Jules online, and chats to her. Their relationship progresses from online chat, to skype, to meeting in real life. Kes worries that Jules will see him as a girl, but keeping his hair tucked into a hat, a sports bra to stop his breasts from protruding and a using fake penis he bought online, they have a sexual and romantic relationship.
Kes is delighted that when Jules looks at him, she sees Kes and loves him.
He is suddenly publicly outed when his parents receive a court summons for him, after Jules accuses him of sexual assault and fraud, upon discovering Kes’s female anatomy.
Through the lens of Jules, there is a clear cut issue of consent, but Kes feels that he is a boy and that therefore his deception is not fraudulent. The media refer to him as a lesbian, and as Kes explained to us, trans women are funny but trans men are seen as dangerous, or “other”. It scares people that a girl would do what he did.
The problematic protagonist leads to a conflicted story which bases itself in the reality that people are conditioned to be sexist and homo/transphobic.
McAllister’s performance is manic, and Kes repeatedly stating how happy he is points to the uncertainty, and anxiety he struggles with.
The stage is a circle with the seats placed around it, with the house lights up so McAllister can make eye contact with each audience member and bring them into Kes’s life.
Teenage angst and identity are not new topics, but framing these in a look from the point of view of a trans male coming to terms with himself as well as media backlash to his actions and identity, along with the issue of consent, add a fresh layer of complexity to this engaging piece.
It is impossible to develop a full sympathy for Kes as the betrayal Jules feels is valid, but it is clear that he is someone who struggles in a transphobic society which needs challenging.
Runs in Project Arts Centre until 3rd of March 2018