little scratch review: Katie Mitchell breathes life into Rebecca Watson’s experimental novel

Seemingly unstageable novel comes to life with a terrific cast and mesmerising sound design

Isobel Lewis
Friday 12 November 2021 16:31
Comments
<p>Four become one: (from left) Eve Ponsonby, Eleanor Henderson, Morónkẹ́ Akinọlá and Ragevan Vasan</p>

Four become one: (from left) Eve Ponsonby, Eleanor Henderson, Morónkẹ́ Akinọlá and Ragevan Vasan

When it was announced that Rebecca Watson’s debut novel little scratch was being adapted for the stage, the news was met with “ooh”s and “aah”s. Released in 2020, the book follows 24 hours in the life of an unnamed woman. It’s a normal day where she wakes up, goes to work and tries not to think about the fact that she’s been raped. In Watson’s stream of consciousness-style story, each page is split into numerous separate columns as different voices and thoughts interweave. Her book is experimental in form and utterly devastating in content – hard enough to read, let alone imagine on stage.

But if anyone’s going to tackle a knotty text like little scratch, it’s director Katie Mitchell, who is known for her bold and often divisive stage adaptations such as her 2006 staging of Chekhov’s The Seagull. Adapted by Miriam Battye, Watson’s words have been split into four parts, played by Eve Ponsonby, Eleanor Henderson, Morónkẹ́ Akinọlá and Ragevan Vasan. The result is part spoken-word poetry (something Watson herself skewers in the text), part live soundscape. The actors walk onto the dimly lit stage, a tall microphone stand and pendant lamp awaiting each of them. They don’t move from their spots. Together, they play our lead, capturing the often contradictory thoughts in her head as she tries to get through the day. Sounds, voices and distractions from the outside world are also spoken, random notions overlapping with TripAdvisor reviews and texts from her boyfriend.

Together, the cast create a meticulously choreographed vocal performance, making it hard to single out any one star. While I was surprised when Vasan walked on stage (having assumed an internal monologue about sexual assault would be portrayed by women), it’s an ingenious inclusion. Voicing our female narrator like the others, Vasan is also able to bring the male characters to life without lessening their impact. Fear of men is a theme prevalent in the play, the woman claustrophobic as she finds herself in a lift with a random male colleague and flinching as she preempts street harassment from passersby. Standing at the end of the line, Vasan can be both part of the group and an ominous outsider.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in