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Scruffy: “This is for all the rockstars out there!”

Review by Ellie Cansdale

Last Thursday I headed over to Workshop Theatre to see Scruffy, Sugar Theatre Company’s debut show. The show has previously received 4 Star reviews, so I was very excited to go see it.

The doors were opened, we headed in, greeted with only a few rows of chairs for us and Maisy (played by Rosie Hollingworth) doing some arts and crafts on the floor. Her eyes were on us from the moment we walked in. A few chosen audience members were handed a drawing from Maisy when they sat down, instantly you knew where you were and who Maisy was. This act of childish innocence set the tone for the evening, settling us into the comfortable familiarity of our own childhood bedrooms. I instantly recognised the arts and crafts corner, the dressing up pile at the back of the room, and the handmade drawings pinned at the back of the stage. We all knew this space.

Thank you to the company for providing images

As we entered, a series of 2000s pop girl hits played and we were transported into Maisy’s world. When we’re all seated, a subtle lighting change indicates the show’s begun, and Maisy’s voice instantly confirms her age. We’re introduced to Maisy “I’m 9 years old… and a half!” and her room as she shows us her favourite things from her “bestest drawing” to her “bestest sunglasses.” This childlike action reminded me of me at that age, wanting to show everyone only my favourite things; its what you are when you’re that age, all the things you like thew “bestest”.

The way Rosie tells us her story is beautiful, flowing effortlessly from a PowerPoint presentation about her hobbies to having a one-sided conversation with her teacher to talking on the phone to her parents whilst she’s in the hospital. Rosie’s acting skills shone, from the moment she introduced herself to the moment she stood waiting for her dad; I was absolutely captivated. A true testament to her acting skills was how she effortlessly portrayed different characters as her 9-year-old self’s understanding of them. We could easily see the teacher stood talking to her through her one-sided conversation, as well as understand what kind of person her therapist was through simply the retelling of their conversations.

Photo Credit to Pete Taylor Photography

The elephant in the room is soon addressed; her feeding tube or should I call it, her “noodle nose” that fit into her dungarees which “mummy called convenient”. The noodle nose stays in on “bad days” and for most of the performance until something changes in Maisy’s expression and time has moved on, the noodle nose is nowhere to be seen. We have a small celebration with Maisy, happy that she’s getting better, and thus we feel a shift in the tone.

Not long into the play we learn who Scruffy is. “The little pixie inside my stomach that tells me not to eat,” Maisy tells us; the adults should be mad at him. Not her. She has a drawing of him to show us how she sees him and it’s in that moment I realise how much her childhood innocence is protecting her but also damaging her through this “little pixie”.

Throughout the show, subtle lighting states created a new space in the room. Her whole new space for conversation. From spotlights, to flashing multi-colours, their subtlety added to the story we were being told and helped us follow Maisy as she spoke.

Perhaps one of my favourite moments was when Maisy decided she wanted to perform her play “the Black Hearted fairy” starring her as Rhianna, the Black Hearted Fairy. She needed audience members to play “not so important roles.” It transported me back to when I was a child making plays out of the fancy dress box at home (a box of fabric and random hats), where everything had to be just right according to the rules we had just now decided. When the chosen audience members ‘volunteered’, they were given their own costumes and scripts. The play followed the story of Rihanna the Black hearted fairy going to the ball, being spiked by Prince Charming, dying, and returning as the Gold hearted fairy. Maisy performed it as dramatically as possible, using props and costumes from her fancy dress pile. This reinstated to us just how Maisy’s brain had decided to cope with her illness – it was all story-based and fluffy, making it easy to understand.

But it wasn’t all fun and games, and after not long we were brought back to her reality. 3pm equals snack time. Maisy picks up a kit kat chunky from the floor and stares at it. She tells us all about snack time and how she’s been told off before for hiding her kit kat because she didn’t feel like eating it, and telling us that she just doesn’t fancy it today. Then she realises she must hide it again, to avoid getting into trouble, and we watch her, now teary-eyed, as she tries to find somewhere in her room that it won’t be found. She tries her arts and crafts pile, her dungarees, even asks us if we want to eat some, telling us that if we all share it then we all only need to eat a little bit. But realises we’re “not hungry like [she is]”. And that’s when the tears started. What started off as a little task turned into a breakdown, and her heart-breaking reality hit us with full force.

Scruffy is an incredible one-woman show about the innocence of childhood and how our brains can tell us lies for no reason at all. This is an absolute must see with impeccable performance, excellent technical design and a true, heartfelt story that needs to be heard. Good luck to Sugar Theatre company on their tour with the play!

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