Aug 13 2017 | By More

★★★☆☆  Thought-provoking

Assembly Roxy (venue 139): Thurs 3 – Sun 27 Aug 2017
Review by Lucy Evans

Andy Edwards’ new play Scribble, at the Assembly Roxy, is an innovative and thought-provoking exploration of mental health.

Ross is a PhD candidate in cosmology who likes science, the universe, and bran flakes. He also has obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety. Based on real and imagined experiences, Edwards’s script raises important themes but perhaps needs a little more work.

Alan MacKenzie. Pic Mihaela Bodlovic

At each performance, a new actor who has never seen the show sits down at a desk and reads out the instructions from a script they have never seen before – “say everything highlighted yellow, do everything in pink”. The audience and the supporting actor live the show at the same time.

Soon, out walks Ross (Alan Mackenzie). He speaks directly at the audience and, with a few borrowed Tim Vine fringe puns to ease the tension, the line between real life and fiction continues to blur.

Mackenzie is great. He has a sweet yet subdued charisma that is engaging yet doesn’t overpower the supporting actor. On the review date this was played by Kirsty Eila McIntyre, who handled the many roles the script demanded of her so gracefully that she could very well have rehearsed it.

The creative team’s reason behind changing the supporting actor each show is also fantastic – to reflect the daily changeable nature of mental health and its high incidence within the population. This reason is only given on their website though and not the programme, which limits this side of the discussion to just those who’ve read ahead.


Cosmology is used frequently as an analogy for Ross’ struggles. Supernovas fight against two forces, he explains – expansion and contraction – just as anxiety is the fight between a nervous energy and a deep sinking feeling. It is here that Edwards’ script is strongest, making science and mental health relatable by using each other as reference.

Using a system of clapping for yes and staying silent for no, Ross asks the audience a series of questions. “Question one: Have you ever made a decision?”, “two: Have you ever worried about making a decision?”, “three: Have you ever eaten bran flakes?”. These mild questions ease into others, and lead to an interestingly inclusive exploration of mental health without forcing an out-loud discussion.

The gentle audience interaction at the start means that the twist, when it comes, is extremely jarring. What starts out as figuring out how to choose a cereal in the supermarket quickly turns to coping with other much more intrusive and inappropriate thoughts. Though also important topics for general discussion, they are raised clumsily and the unexpected nature of the theme’s introduction is mirrored by the abruptness of their ending. The overall effect is of a work in progress – and we’re told it is, with this being draft 49.

Scribble was developed last year under the guidance of Rob Drummond, Associate Playwright at the Traverse Theatre and writer of 2016 Fringe hit In Fidelity. It is supported by the ART Award, a new award funded by Assembly Festival for developing Scottish performance companies in the 2017 fringe. It’s certainly great to see new writing like this allowed to develop with such support, but at this stage in its development it is perhaps best explicitly publicised as a work in progress or delivered as an open discussion.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that a great level of detailed thinking went into Scribble, and with its innovative style it is still an insightful and thought-provoking work.

Running time: 1 hour (Varies)
Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH 9SU (venue 139)
Thursday 3 – Sunday 27 Aug 2017
Daily (not 15 or 22): 3:50pm

Tickets and details:
Twitter: @scribble_play


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