3 out of 5 stars

Amy McAllister gives a winning performance as a happy go-lucky teen who collides with heteronormative society

You may not remember the name Gayle Newland. But you’ll probably be familiar with the court case brought against her last year: she was convicted on three accounts of sexual assault and jailed after allegedly posing as a man to have sex with a woman she met online.

Then there was Kyran Lee, a young transgender man, convicted of the mind-boggling crime of ‘gender fraud’ in December for broadly similar reasons – he narrowly escaped prison.

There is a lot of work about gender and identity at the Fringe this year. But Stacey Gregg’s ‘Scorch’ stands out in that it directly engages with real-life events, seeking to humanise men and women treated like lurid exotica by the tabloid press. 

Kes is a young Irishwoman who lives a spectacularly happy-go-lucky life. The play skips through the years, from childhood to late teens, as her exuberant, waistcoat-obsessed tomboyishness as a girl truns to cheery teenhood and eventually hooking up with a woman she met on the internet whilst kind-of sort-of posing as a man. What comes across is not so much confusion or deceit, but that Kes is a simple, sweet person, attempting to do what comes naturally, ill-equipped to handle the torturous justifications and labelling a suspicious heteronormative society expects of her/him/they.

It’s a magnificently winning acting performance from Amy McAllister, and Gregg is particularly strong on the suggestion that the shackles of language leave little room for those who don’t conform to conventional binaries to articulate themselves. 

Still, it actually feels a little simple and underbaked despite all that, the plot chugging along in a fairly predictable monologue fashion. The storytelling feels just a touch tired, though that's certainly compensated for by the freshness of both subject matter and central performance.

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