We spoke to director Gabrielle Bird from Plain Heroines about taking part in VAULT Festival 2023 with their show SCRATCHES
Tell us what Scratches is about?
SCRATCHES is a play based on Aoife’s, real-life experiences with self-harm and recovery. It’s an exploration of how self-harm remains a taboo subject that we’re not very good at talking about. Using laughter as a way to start discussing the impact it had on GIRL’s relationships, the play presents a series of events in her life, looking for the funny side in order to break through the awkwardness. It also features Aoife’s real-life fabulous friend, Zak as BEST FRIEND, who stands by her side, frequently interrupting and upstaging her in the name of show-business. It’s a star vehicle for him, really.
What were the main challenges of creating the show, especially one that’s so personal?
We did a couple of workshop performances of the show at Jermyn Street Theatre in 2021 and 2022. Since then we’ve been in consultation with various charities over how to deal with such a sensitive topic onstage, in a way that feels safe for both the audience and the creative team. There’s been some serious edits and a conscious change of wording in the play. Making a play out of real life is interesting, because the truth in its entirety is never as dramatically interesting or linear as you want it to be, so there’s been some serious edits there too! We’ve been developing the play for a good few years now, so sometimes the redrafts have been about catching up with real life- most people’s relationship with their own mental health is continuous and ongoing, so it’s a hard play to try and find a definite narrative end point with.
What would you like the audience to take away from the show?
We want the audience to feel like the floor has kind of been opened. Self-harm affects so many people, younger people especially, and yet it feels like it’s still taboo to talk about, even though we’re getting so much better as a society at talking about mental health in general. For people who are directly affected by self-harm, we want them to feel more empowered to talk to people and reach out for help. For people who come in not knowing a lot about it, we hope the topic feels more approachable. To that end, and inspired by companies like Clean Break and New Diorama, we’re also creating a self-care and resource pack. But it’s not all doom and gloom! We also want the audience to have a bloody good time and give us lots of praise and validation and laugh at our jokes!
What excites you about taking part in VAULT Festival 2023?
VAULT Festival is like no other. There’s very few places where emerging artists can try out new work without huge financial risks – Edinburgh Fringe just isn’t a realistic opportunity anymore for so many artists but VAULT is special. It’s rewired our brains so that the smell of damp now makes us feel excited. We can’t wait for the audiences, the festival spirit, and the buzzing of all the different shows and companies gathered underground. Seeing everyone’s work is so exciting. We’re also quite excited for pints in those special plastic VAULT beakers. It’s been over two years since the last festival- we really hope they’ve kept the beakers.
What’s next for Plain Heroines?
We’re all freelancers, so who can tell? It’s wherever the wind takes us!
See SCRATCHES at VAULT Festival between 31st January – 5th February, more details here