Note: This review is from the 2017 Fringe

The Old Lab is tucked away towards the back corner of multi-arts venue Summerhall. It is a fairly small room, but for the production of The Shape Of Pain it has been transformed to fully make use of the black box space. Eight large metal plates are vertically presented in a horseshoe shape in the centre of the stage. It is a peculiar set up for a special show.

The Shape of Pain is a meditation on pain and empathy. It is a solo performance from Hannah McPake and is written by Chris Thorpe. The story is not linear. It jumps back and forth in time and draws upon director Rachel Bagshaw‘s experiences with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. The performer embodies Bagshaw and asks questions, recounts memories and eloquently delivers monologues that centre on the director’s experience of pain. Hannah uses language and the spoken word to convey thoughts and feelings. The rhythm of her words and the precision of her delivery underlines Bagshaw’s close relationship to pain and highlights the deep quality in the writing. The experiences of the protagonist feel real and the evocative delivery makes The Shape of Pain seem more like a spoken word performance, as opposed to a traditional drama.

The set design and sound design work in tandem with the physical and vocal performance from Hannah McPake. The sound conveys pain with a droning and pulsating soundscape that completely adds to the absolute frustration and torment that is being depicted on stage. The back video projection also reinforces the spoken word. Text is constantly displayed on the metallic plates, which gives the vocal delivery an added volume and a physical presence . On occasion the performer interacts with the text projections and again the result only increases the deep trauma and intense pain. The Shape of Pain is a fanatic piece of new writing that is performed with energy and spirit.