‘Gender fraud’ has become a buzzword amongst UK tabloids in recent years. A high-profile example is Kyran Lee: a transgender man convincted in 2014 of one count of sexual assault by penetration on the basis of “gender fraud”. Scorch, by Prime Cut Productions, follows a story in a similar vein.
In this one-woman show, we see Amy McAllister portraying a young transgender man named Kes. Kes, as an eight-year-old, preferred wearing waistcoats to dresses, and tried (and failed) to pee standing up. As Kes grows older, he identifies with male characters he sees in the media, rather than being attracted to Ryan Gosling he wants “to be Ryan Gosling”. Kes uses online chatrooms to escape, where he meets Jules, and the two eventually strike up a relationship. At this point, Kes is gender-curious and pre-transition, but feels most comfortable “as a boy”.
Scorch asks some fascinating and important questions… is gender dysphoria simply recognised as fraud in the eyes of the law?
The best moments of this play are the moments of comedy, such as Kes hilariously recounting the people he meets in his LGBT youth support group. Emma Jordan’s direction thoughtfully makes use of the round staging, with McAllister charming her audience with her physicality and believable intimacy.
We see this story completely from Kes’ perspective: his demonisation by the media, his confusion with his gender identity and his wide-eyed faith in people. The use of sound and lighting enhances the ‘technological’ mood, and the use of the round staging allows McAllister to weave in and out of the audience for a close interaction whilst also being suffocating in moments – giving her nowhere to escape. Scorch asks some fascinating and important questions: why do innocent people plead guilty? Is gender dysphoria simply recognised as fraud in the eyes of the law?
Scorch attempts to tackle some profound subject matter, and to capture the struggles of trans youth is not an easy task
Stacey Gregg’s writing is funny and charming, and it’s refreshing to have a protagonist using vernacular language. McAllister has excellent comic timing, and portrays a charming and earnest character. The biggest flaw with this show is that it feels incomplete, and I would be intrigued to see Scorch in a full-length version. Even after Kes is thrown in prison, his character is still as naïve and bubbly, which is hard to believe considering his circumstances.
Scorch attempts to tackle some profound subject matter, and to capture the struggles of trans youth is not an easy task. Gregg does not try to speak for trans youth, but merely presents one trans story: a naïve gender-curious youth from Ireland, whom isn’t even aware of the meaning of their dysphoria.
Scorch is showing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, information and tickets here.
Image: Prime Cut Productions