A lived experience

A lived experience

27 March 2018

 It might not have been made for her, but Florence Bell has to talk about the performance in Hatch 

The first thing I need to say about Hatch is that it's supremely well-crafted; one of those shows where every detail is so absolute in what it’s doing that you just sit and watch, with confidence that it knows exactly where it is taking you. The second thing I need to say about Hatch is that I don’t think it was made for me. I have never listened to synth before – I think that is what this kind of music is called. The literal situation Sarah Carton’s character (Jess) is in, locked in solitary confinement with an abusive guard, is a million miles away from my privileged bubble filled with playlists of Bowie covers. I know there will be beautiful moments in this show that I’ll have missed, things I won’t have understood, because it’s just not me. But I feel the need to talk about it anyway, because I think it’s a beautiful piece of performance.

The structure is episodic, or internalised. Carton lies in a plain metal bunk bed in a grey tracksuit and slides her toes on the metallic grid of the bunk above. She seems childlike. Then she gets up and performs half an hour of explosive spoken word poetry and loud, fierce, intelligent music. And then she lies back down on her bunk and starts wiggling her feet along the base of the bunk above again. And it’s over.

We flit between songs about Callum, her drug-dealing ex (or maybe still boyfriend), her Gran who she can feel in the stars, her abusive guard who watches her through the hatch. There’s an implication, too, that the audience is looking in through the hatch, or has a hatch into Jess’ mind. It doesn’t feel voyeuristic – we are invited in. The hatch is two-fold: invasive, but also an opportunity to make prison routine more bearable for Jess.

Carton’s husky, hypnotic voice guides us through songs about anger, about love, about missing people and feeling missed. The play should feel intensely performative but in fact it feels brutally real. Objectively speaking, there’s some intensely dehumanising content within what is essentially a gig-theatre monologue. But Carton humanises it all, makes it feel lived and seem livable.

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Photo credit: Aenne Pallasca