Scorch at Theatre Passe Muraille is enlightening and essential

SCORCH by Stacey Gregg (Bustle & Beast/Blarney Productions). At Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson). Runs to December 2. $20-$25..


SCORCH by Stacey Gregg (Bustle & Beast/Blarney Productions). At Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson). Runs to December 2. $20-$25. bustleandbeast.com. See listing. Rating: NNNN

With the recent proposal by Ontarios Progressive Conservative party to debate gender identity as a liberal ideology, Scorch could not come at a more vital time. Transgender and non-binary lives are under attack, and in Stacey Greggs play audiences see just how devastating the consequences can be for a person who doesnt identify as strictly male or female.

Inspired by a 2013 UK trial where Justine McNally was charged with sexual assault for failing to disclose their birth gender to their partner, Scorch focuses on Kes (Julie NIUBOI Ferguson), a gender-curious teenager who becomes involved in a similar situation.

For the most part Kes is just like any other teen awkward, always online and obsessed with video games. Puberty is harder when you never wanted breasts to begin with, so Kes buys a chest binder.

At one point Kes wonders if theyre trans, or maybe a boi a term used for girls who look like cute boys, Kes explains. But after a seemingly wonderful sexual encounter turns into a legal nightmare, Kes realizes that perhaps their identity doesnt fall within the strict gender binary at all.

Ferguson, who identifies as non-binary, is magnetic and authentically embodies the awkwardness of youth. Their storytelling draws audiences into Greggs powerful script, which leaves plenty of room for laughter to break up the intensity.

Alison Yanotas futuristic set design is straight out of a Kraftwerk show, with lines of LED lights constantly changing the colour of the back wall and three translucent life-sized dolls seated on stage and softly glowing. Theyre occasionally used as props, but for all of Scorchs 60 minutes, Ferguson is alone.

That loneliness a reflection of the often-isolated experience of coming-of-age genderqueer isnt lost on the audience. Its a reminder that our trans, non-binary and queer friends and family need more love, more support and more connections to help them shine their brightest.

@michdas

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