Hannah McPake performs in Chris Thorpe and director Rachel Bagshaw’s Fringe First award-winning show about trying to communicate something unknowable. Interweaving Rachel’s personal experiences of living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) with a fictional narrative about a love affair. With an original score from Melanie Wilson (When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other) and video design from Joshua Pharo (nominated for a 2019 Offie Award), alongside fully integrated captioning and audio description, The Shape of the Pain attempts to explain what Rachel’s chronic pain sounds like, looks like and feels like.

The Shape of the Pain is at Wilton’s Music Hall 19th – 23rd March 2019, before touring.

You’re appearing in The Shape of Pain at Wilton’s Music Hall ahead of a tour, what can you tell us about it?

The Shape of the Pain is a show about love and perception.  It’s the story of the desire within all of us to be understood, told through the lens of a woman living with Chronic Pain.

How did you become involved in the production?

I hadn’t worked with Rachel prior to The Shape of the Pain but we had lots of theatre connections in common.  I was called in to audition for the show.  Rachel and I met, read through the script and talked about what the production might be like.  I was really intrigued by the idea of the show and really wanted to work with Rachel so I was delighted when I was offered the job.

You’ve been working closely with Rachel Bagshaw, what have you learned from her while working on The Shape of Pain?

Rachel is incredibly passionate and detailed which is a brilliant combination in a director. She’s also scarily competitive in warm up ball games!  It’s a slightly unusual dynamic as the character I’m playing is a version of Rachel.  Early on in the process we spent a lot of time working with medical experts to bring me up to speed on the medical science behind the piece, but perhaps more importantly I spent a lot of time with Rachel finding out more about her experience of living with CRPS day to day.  Rachel has set up the show as an experiment – every night my challenge is to try and understand what it might be like to live with chronic pain and then try and articulate that to an audience, will I or the audience genuinely understand what someone else is feeling.

How did audiences react at Edinburgh Fringe?

We had a fantastic response up in Edinburgh.  We were lucky to win a Fringe First and be nominated for a Total Theatre Award.  Audiences seemed to really respond to the piece and connect to the subject matter. Some people talked about having an extreme awareness of their own body during the show.  It’s also had an incredibly positive response from people living with pain as well as their friends and relatives.  It seems to articulate the experience in a way people haven’t felt before.

How does music and video fit in to the production?

Although I’m the only performer on stage the show is a trio between myself, the sound score and projection design.  The performance and words really are only one part and it’s the combination of all 3 elements that make the production.  Helen Mugridge and Jimmi Maffei operate the show.  We’ve been working together as a team since Edinburgh and know the piece and each other really well which means we can be really responsive. Sometimes I’m leading the sound and images on stage and sometimes they are leading me.

What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see The Shape of Pain?

It’s a universal story about trying to understand what someone else is feeling, as well as the need to be understood. Told through the lens of one woman’s story of living with chronic pain.   There’s a remarkable script by Chris Thorpe. It looks and sounds exquisite, thanks to the brilliant designs of Madeline Girling, Melanie Wilson and Joshua Pharo.  And while we’re in London it’ll be framed by the beautiful setting of Wilton’s Music Hall.  Plus every performance is fully accessible with captions and audio description built into the show.

Greg is an award-winning writer with a huge passion for theatre. He has appeared on stage, as well as having directed several plays in his native Scotland. Greg is the founder and editor of Theatre Weekly


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