Vault review: Scratches

Creating a show that addresses the topic of self-harm with comedy is well worth a watch, and this is what Plain Heroines have brought to the Vault Festival with their play, Scratches.

This isn’t to say that the issues are not addressed lightly or glibly. There is even an audience self-care list of resources for further help or reading, and there are moments within the show that are undoubtedly difficult to perform or witness.

Aoife Kennan is both writer and performer, drawing on her own story with the help of Zak Ghazi-Torbati. Against a background of the type of gold fringe you might find in a stand-up venue, Scratches unfolds.

I found the show very refreshing in its approach: often, plays touching on mental health issues can leave you at best triggered, at worse feeling depressed. This is not the case here, with a careful eye on when not to overshare.

Kennan’s ‘thing’ is only shared so far, but many watchers will be able to relate. Even a song about antidepressants is both uplifting and informative, commenting on the propensity of many GPs to medicate rather than really deal with issues of instability and sadness.

Director Gabriella Bird displays an empathy with the subject, allowing a moment here and there of weakness and indulging Ghazi-Torbati’s sense of showing off. It is a good mix, helped by Hugh Sheehan’s sound design.

Scratches crosses the boundary between the comedy club and the confessional, with the long stage area of the Cage allowing changes of character and location and a fluidity of motion throughout, as well as occasional breaking of the fourth wall.

I last saw a show by this company at Vault 2020, and can see that they are continuing to evolve in their storytelling and collective creativity.

This is a female-led company which are not afraid to push at boundaries in their work, and Scratches is a fascinating, honest, and open piece of work.

Scratches closes tonight, 5 Feb. Tickets here.


Image credit: Steve Gregson