FringeReview Scotland 2023
Over five episodes, whilst completely naked, Sarah Hopfinger tries to make peace with her pain and talks to it as if such a relationship was possible. Suffering from chronic pain since the age of 14 this is a physical exploration of how she has found methods of coping as well as an emerging conversation between her and a constant companion devoutly never to be wished upon anyone else but which all of us recognise.
The emergence of Hopfinger, with her back to us, speaking into a microphone and thus draws us towards the power of her personal and very painful piece of theatre. She begins by detailing the rules of being her audience. We are allowed to be in the theatre and make noises, make departures, and the moving around we may need, becomes a piece of gentility that soothes as much as it does encourage open behaviour, thus open thinking. As an introduction it set us up well for what followed.
A word here for the interpreter. Oft tutted at and felt an encumbrance by some audience members, here the presence of another human being onstage who, whilst animated, was unobtrusive, added to the theatricality which I think was being aimed at – inclusiveness. Here I saw someone who understood the form and the message which was allowed to develop and be performed whilst I enjoyed the signing being background white noise for others, but never lift muzak. It was this level of understanding that, theatrically, Pain and I was, that made it work for me.
And so, before we began this experience, it was set up to theatrically tell the tale.
It was that context of the piece along with the performance which swept me with it. I found it challenging and abrupt with the start slightly less than obvious to me so that I struggled a little to find my metaphorical feet. But by the fourth episode where there was real emotional depth. It allowed me to consider why this had affected me so much, given that I may have struggled before and then it hit me.
To get me there it had to prepare me to journey there. This builds, it makes use of the stage and the technical – lighting is great, original score, superb – and then delivers those layers towards the end which makes the experience theatrically exciting. That “pop” of a climax makes the final episode more poignant. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a “when I was 14 this happened, and then at 15 this” kind of show, but the scars for the battle being fought are more poignantly felt because it takes a poetic approach to dealing with the suffering of the night and day, leaving you in an understanding which, when you arrived, you simply did not have. To that end this works beautifully and painfully in equal measure.