Amy catches up with Aoife Kennan, who wrote and stars in Scratches.

How are you feeling ahead of your opening at the Arcola after a fantastic run at Vaults?

I’m a big bundle of nerves at the moment, but there’s a lot of excitement mixed in there. We had such a great response from VAULT Festival, so I hope it resonates with Arcola audiences too! It’s such a cool space to bring the show to.

Can you briefly tell us about the show?

Scratches is a confessional comedy whirlwind about struggling with mental health and self-harm and how it affects your friends, family and romantic relationships, as well as the general sheer chaos of being in your early to mid-twenties- a time you truly couldn’t pay me to go back to. It’s all based on my actual experiences, and it’s told with the help of my friend, Zak, who I’ve known for almost ten years now. We are in near constant competition for the limelight. There are songs, dances, some stand-up, some tears- all against a fabulous gold glitter curtain.

Scratches has been updated to reflect modern times; how has it changed and impacted the show while keeping its universal truth?

The nice thing about writing a show based on your own life is that you don’t have to necessarily worry about capturing something universal- you can only speak for your own experiences. Although I do think there’s a paradox where the more personal you make it, the more people are likely to relate. The last major update we made to the script was influenced by the Samaritan Guidelines – we went through the show and took out anything about self-harm that referenced method, and made sure we were actively engaging with the concept of the ‘Papageno Effect’. It’s the idea that stories dealing with suicide and self-harm should offer hope, and look towards recovery, rather than glamourising violence glamorising suffering.

What makes Scratches original?

I think the way we’re approaching the topic of self-harm is truly unique. It’s never acted out, or explicitly described. We’re not out to shock audiences- we’re here to encourage understanding. And although a lot of comedy now deals with other mental health issues, self-harm still feels very taboo and untouchable. So I think we’re pretty original in making a funny show about such a contentious topic. Because I think people have got to feel like they can reach out to someone and talk about it without being judged, and comedy is often an excellent way into a difficult conversation.

Finally, why should audiences see Scratches?

Because it’s fun, flirty and fabulous! But, on a serious note, the show is all about connection, so I think it’s one for grabbing a few mates, a few pints (could be beer, could be a lime and soda) and having a great night out at the theatre together!

Scratches is on at the Arcola Theatre from 7-11 November. You can access tickets here.

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