DTR - Reviews of Scour

Scour

Sat 8th – Sat 29th August 2015

reviews

Laurie Atkinson

at 09:18 on 10th Aug 2015

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Rebecca Monks' Scour is a Fringe debut of startling sincerity and quiet power. She and Joshua Considine (performer and fellow Peacetime Productions founder) deserve huge credit for a show that never preaches, never explodes, but that stares head-on from its six-foot set at an unspeakable issue which has never quite gone away.

Aiden (Considine) has HIV. It is consuming him. Without reading the programme, we don't learn of Aidan's diagnosis until almost half way through the show, and until then he describes to us his medication and secluded lifestyle on Skye as if it's all "no big f*cking deal". This is the kind of understatement, the grime beneath the fingernails, with which Scour reels its audience in. The staging is simple, almost superfluous to Considine's unbroken discourse that coils and confides in a manner much reminiscent of BBC's 'Talking Heads'. Indeed, there are some details - Aiden's alcoholism, his hard Northern upbringing - that perhaps smack a little too much of Alan Bennett. Yet the confidence of Monks' writing, and the earnestness of Considine's performance, makes the show a worthy successor to the near canonical monologues, but convincingly transposed to the 21st century.

Strangely, it is the subtly evoked sense of the world beyond the wicker cabinet and dressing screen onstage that is most impressive. We recognize Aidan: he is a student, he works in a bar, he has retreated into island isolation but has not escaped the periodic buzz of his iPhone. It seems impossible to accommodate so serious an issue as HIV within the comfortable riotousness of university life, but recollections so exact as a bloodlike spot from a spilt Snakebite unnervingly remind us of a first-world reality that is never as far away as we think.

People should see this show. Not simply for a safe sex education - there are campaigns for that - but to do justice to an excellent piece of writing put to disadvantage by its out of the way location at Clouds and Soil. Scour doesn't aim to depress, it doesn't crave sympathy, it asks real questions about how Aiden should deal, how we would deal, with an affliction that seems at once terrifying and unfair.

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Izzie Fernandes

at 09:22 on 10th Aug 2015

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Scour began with a comfortable atmosphere in an airy studio at the Cloud and Soil venue and it seemed that it had potential to develop into an uplifting monologue. However, inside this well-furnished flat on the “clean’ and “quiet”, island of Sky, things did not quite pan out as expected. Although devastatingly raw, Scour was made easier to watch by the boundless energy yet sustained sensitivity with which Joshua Considine (Aidan), played an isolated HIV sufferer.

Scour’s well informed yet unpretentious script interrogates what constitutes safe sex and appropriate sexual expectations. Even in a happy relationships Adrian and his longed for ex-girlfriend Grace prove that nobody is invincible and that neither they nor the audience are immune to the reality that HIV is not just of the past but a growing prospect of the promiscuous present.

The monologue unfolded at just the right pace. Deliberate repetition of the words “safe” and “clean” by the initially relaxed and charmingly chatty Adrian soon became overwhelming. I don’t usually find myself distracted by bottles of hand sanitizer but in this instance I couldn’t peel my eye from the thing. I concluded that maybe it was my OCD which found Adrian’s by then three uses of the clear, disinfecting gloop in ten minutes strangely excessive. Rest assured though, I’m not crazy, my suspicions were soon satisfied.

Adrian’s solitary existence and neatly scripted nostalgia were effectively translated onto the stage by his physical and vocal presence. This likeable yet lonesome character was unexplained until the pop of his pill. Swallowing his Antiretrovirals and Citalopram, Considine intensified the deliverance of the monologue expertly fulfilling the ominous foreboding.

I still cannot shake the shocking reality from which Scour’s exploration of HIV and depression sprung – from an ordinary student couple who attended Edinburgh University. This was a bitter reality that lay surprisingly close to home. Based loosely on writer and past Edinburgh student Rebecca Monks' own experience, the small studio above Cloud and Soil seemed to shrink as the tragedy hit.

A beautiful performance by Considine conveying, anger, self-condemnation and selfless stigmatization, Scour is thought-provoking and challenging but somehow addresses dark issues with clarity and compassion. The understated talent with which it is delivered ensures this is not the sob story of a man whose life is dissolved by his diagnoses. This is the revelation of a man whose “poisoned veins” lead him to sacrifice himself and his thoughts to safety and segregation.

The poignant distinction between being alive and living life is painfully powerful. This is more than definitely worthy of an hour of your time.

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