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Credit: Team Scribble
Credit: Team Scribble

Scribble, Assembly Roxy – Review

Pros: The script draws on the reality of OCD, communicating the director’s real-life experience of its symptoms with harrowing clarity.

Cons: Despite explaining the director and writer’s controversial choices (perhaps a little too thoroughly), this piece feels unfinished.

Pros: The script draws on the reality of OCD, communicating the director's real-life experience of its symptoms with harrowing clarity. Cons: Despite explaining the director and writer’s controversial choices (perhaps a little too thoroughly), this piece feels unfinished. Several of my friends have OCD and struggle with intrusive thoughts, convinced they’re a danger to others. It’s an under-represented mental health condition that needs to be destigmatised, so the next generation of sufferers can realise they are not their thought patterns. Scribble is one of several Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows tackling mental health; it nails the darkness of these intrusive thoughts, as…

Summary

Rating

Poor

An admirable OCD awareness agenda and an enthusiastic team is hampered by a guest acting challenge and a patchy story.

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Several of my friends have OCD and struggle with intrusive thoughts, convinced they’re a danger to others. It’s an under-represented mental health condition that needs to be destigmatised, so the next generation of sufferers can realise they are not their thought patterns. Scribble is one of several Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows tackling mental health; it nails the darkness of these intrusive thoughts, as main character Ross becomes convinced he is a paedophile, despite a lack of evidence. Ross (Alan Mackenzie, giving it everything) paces the room and describes life with OCD, from indecision to coping strategies. Poignantly, he describes making a map to avoid walking past local schools, believing he’s a threat. He gradually scuffs the chalk writing beneath his feet: “Bran Flakes, anxiety + gravity: what I know about the universe”.

Scribble also involves an unprepared actor joining each performance, to read a series of letters from the director and writer out loud. Unfortunately, watching someone read a script isn’t exciting or affecting. Ross’ condition should be the focus, and it’s not.

His pain is diminished by the time spent discussing Fi, his girlfriend, who is working in China. Part of the script asks the guest actor, seemingly playing Fi at the time, to verbally abuse Ross. Is this genuinely the reaction of his long-term girlfriend, who already knows about his OCD (in which case, she isn’t a keeper), or is Ross imagining what she’d say? His obsession with Fi leaves barely any sense of his life beyond her orbit, save for his cosmology studies, where “super giant stars” can also be allegories of anxiety. I’d like to see how his OCD affects Ross’ PHD work and friendships, but neither is explored. Instead, we return to the mechanics of this piece, with further letters from the director and writer, conveying the writer’s distressing personal experience of OCD.

Towards the end there’s a seemingly fundamental question: “Are we feeling the same today?” The same as what – the same as everyone else? The same OCD symptoms? The same amount of indecision in the supermarket? This question is too vague to give closure, especially after a coordinated Bran Flake eating session which, again, perhaps seemed more symbolic on paper.

Scribble ultimately tries too hard to throw quirky unfinished ideas into a single performance; therefore, its OCD awareness message is inevitably diluted.

Author: Andy Edwards
Director: Amy Gilmartin
Producer: Rachel D’Arcy
Booking Until: 27 August 2017
Box Office: 0131 623 3030
Booking Link: https://www.assemblyfestival.com/whats-on/scribble

About Polly Allen

Polly Allen
Polly Allen is a freelance lifestyle journalist based in Sussex, but often found in London. Her earliest memory of theatre was a Postman Pat stage show; she's since progressed to enjoying drama, comedy and musicals without children's TV themes. Her favourite plays include Hangmen by Martin McDonagh, and A Woman Killed with Kindness by Thomas Heywood.