Groomed at Soho Theatre Online
Stage and screen unite during the Soho Theatre’s recording of Patrick Sandford’s powerful autobiographical play Groomed. Set in a primary school, Sandford retells his experience of abuse at the hands of his English teacher in an honest and often heart-wrenching performance. Through inspired camera work paired with poetic writing, Groomed presents the best combination for online viewing and does Sandford’s important story justice.
Directed by Nancy Meckler, the production is a 50-minute monologue that thoroughly explores the emotional toll and complications of abuse. Written and performed by Sandford, Groomed is a raw, honest and captivating display of performative talent. Sandford shares his feelings as a survivor, opening up about his fear, anger and guilt, while fully entrusting the audience with his trauma. Children’s drawings, old photos and a small empty seat are used to conjure the image of his 9-year-old self; the result is a profoundly affecting experience that draws the viewer into Sandford’s psyche and pain.
Groomed is designed to be a hard watch, fully immersing the audience in Sandford’s journey and presenting a candid view of mental health. No stone of pain is left unturned, and no emotion or memory left unshared. The intimacy created through the piece is elevated by excellent sound design and frequent close-ups of Sandford breaking the fourth wall. The creative team proves their capabilities in storytelling as this filmed reiteration of Groomed manages to capture and elevate the atmosphere of the original 2016 stage production, despite the occasional redundant metaphor and long-winded description.
The power of the show lies in the story; however, at times, the script feels as if it is getting in its own way. With the addition of distinct visuals, the words lose the power they had on stage and occasionally feel over-descriptive and needless. Despite these occasional lapses in intensity, the narrative is a memorable experience.
Groomed not only shares an important message but it also stands as an amazing production, both live and digitally. Although a taxing watch, the play stands as a strong example of storytelling that proves itself to be timeless.
Photo: Soho Theatre
Groomed is at Soho Theatre Online from 26th May. For further information visit the theatre’s website here.