I was adamant that no matter how many shows I saw at the Fringe, none of them would manage to make me cry. Scent beat me. I can’t be mad about the defeat though; after all, it’s exactly the reason we go to the theatre – to feel something. Here is a show that will make you feel utterly devastated, but in the best possible way.
It’s a beautiful story, artfully told: a one-woman show detailing the thoughts and experiences of a young woman going through an exceptionally difficult time. The staging alone alerts us to the fact that there is something amiss, with the bottles of red wine and uninhibited pajama dancing being an all-too-familiar hint. Early on in the production, the reasons behind her turmoil are expertly teased, leaving the audience grasping at all the possible reasons for this distress.
When the extent of her trauma is finally revealed, the audience is so invested that the weight of it feels like a physical attack. From then on, the play delivers a poignant reflection on how loss can affect our minds, and the difficulty of moving on from memories that embed themselves into the very fabric of our lives: every memento that we share, and every scent that lingers just a little too long.
Scent takes advantage of every element of production, creating a truly remarkable experience. The small stage is used to full effect, with every set piece contributing to the relatable atmosphere the show maintains throughout. The writing is simple and poetic without ever feeling as though it’s trying too hard. But most notable of all is the acting, which never once fails to carry the weight of its message. Stacey Cullen’s performance is warm and understated, with a delivery that feels entirely genuine, as every stage of grief she portrays seems sincere, and pulls you in with her.
Scent is a brilliant example of a basic story effortlessly delivering an important message. Yet, despite the heavy weight of its subject matter and the complicated emotions it is sure to evoke, it is still a thoroughly enjoyable piece of theatre. With this simple story of human emotion, Stacey Cullen achieves the not-so-simple task of leaving her audience feeling sad but not at all unhappy.