Contact Theatre, Manchester; Thursday 25th May, 2017
Several years ago, a series of high profile cases began making headline news in British newspapers – a seemingly new type of crime that the British justice system didn’t quite know how to handle.
Though unconnected, the cases were remarkably similar: each revolved around a young couple who met online, then met in person before eventually progressing on to a sexual relationship. All seemed to be well until it was shockingly revealed that the male in the partnership was in fact a female who had been lying all along about her gender.
Drawing on the issues raised by these cases, Stacey Gregg’s play Scorch presents a rather unusual take on the matter – unusual because the play focuses solely on the perpetrator of the crime.
Amy McAllister delivers a solo performance as Kes – a young lady who seems quite certain about her male identity. She does all the boyish things: plays computer games, wears the right clothes, walks with a casual swagger, she even grabs her crotch in the right way.
Kes is a genuinely likeable character. There is a seamless flow between her comical online dating exploits, through to her falling in love before the sudden shock of being charged with a crime hits her. It is very hard not to feel sympathy at Kes’ sad protestation that she was just being herself.
Whether it’s right to do so or not, Scorch presents the issue of a sex crime as being a highly complex problem where the alleged perpetrator may just be a naive and possibly confused youngster who never meant to do harm.
This is a deeply thought-provoking performance. It raises questions about whether this very particular type of gender-complicated sexual crime is perhaps fundamentally different to male-on-female cases. As a piece of theatre that challenges perceptions and opinions, Scorch is definitely a winner, even if the fundamental questions remain unanswered.