As you enter the theatre space you see that you’re looking at an hotel room. Daz is dancing around the room and Lauren joins him as she leaves the bathroom. At first glance this seems to be a young couple enjoying a romantic week away, but as the dialogue unfurls it becomes clear that there is much more to this story.
Lauren is Daz’s teacher and this trip is to celebrate Daz turning 16. The action is set in 2004 as was the play written by Fiona Evans. As the programme explains, a year before, in 2003 the Sexual Offences Act reconceptualized the idea of consent. For the first time the crime of grooming minors and committing abuse as a person in a position of trust was enshrined in law.
At times it’s hard to hold in your mind the power dynamic here, as Daz and Lauren often come across as a “normal” couple, but there are worrying reminders that all is not as it should be. The blurring of the lines is deliberate, challenging the audience on whether there can be any shades of grey in cases such as this, or whether everything is clearly cut and dried.
A revelation about the nature of Lauren’s relationship with her fiancé is intriguing but doesn’t offer any further insight into the often cyclical nature of abuse.
For the second act, the action is moved to the 1980s and the genders of the roles are reversed. Now we meet Beth and Aidan. The script remains the same.
I didn’t leave during the intermission and it was interesting to watch some of the props in the hotel room swapped out for furniture of that time – a flat-screened TV swapped for an old, grey, broad-backed one, some modern curtains swapped for something more chintzy. A Gameboy is given as a gift rather than a Nintendo DS. I am not completely convinced I would have noticed the changes if I had left and returned or really what this added to the performance.
The swapping of the genders did make a difference though and made me ask myself why this was. Why does it feel worse for a male teacher to commit the crime rather than a female one? As the programme explains this time the action takes place in 1989, 15 years earlier when Lauren would have been a teenager herself. At this time consent was not something generally taken into account and was based on a defendant’s reasonable belief that their victim was over the age of 16. Not that even this scant defence would have held up for Lauren or Aidan.
Despite the heavy subject matter there are still many areas of light and comedy. The cast and director (Enya Lucas) did a fantastic job with what could have been very difficult material. Connor Houton as Daz and Emily Gilpin as Beth, skirt the line between pupils and emerging adults well. Similarly neither Fiona Galloway as Lauren, nor Tim Cooper as Aidan come across as monsters, adding to the overall complexity as the play unfolds.
Scarborough is a fantastic production and is genuinely thought-provoking.
Scarborough continues at The Carriageworks Theatre until Saturday (11 March 2023). Tickets £15, call (0113) 376 0318 or book online. Age guidance 16+.
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