Brighton FringeDramaReview

BRIGHTON FRINGE: Groomed – Sweet Waterfront

Writer: Patrick Sandford
Director Nancy Meckler
Reviewer: Ruby Isla Cera Marle

The nature of the Fringe, is you never really know what you’re going to see or what impact if any, a production will have on you. You don’t expect to watch Groomed, written and performed by Patrick Sandford with a lump in your throat, a knot in your stomach and to feel truly moved by what you had just witnessed. Groomed is a difficult and uncomfortable watch, as Sandford recounts his own true story of child abuse – when he was molested by a school teacher with wandering hands at the age of just 10 years old.

Groomed is both brave and ambitious in that in succeeds in recalling the ordeal from both the abused and the abuser’s perspectives, achieved by having Sandford flit between playing both parts. Groomed doesn’t present a black and white depiction of abuse, instead, it explores the intricacies and subtle shades of grey that exist. Demystifying many of myths, and commonly held misconceptions that are present in society.

It is an extremely powerful statement to have Sandford play both the 10-year-old schoolboy and the teacher, as it visually exemplifies the idea that many abusers were abused themselves as children. Although Sanford will never be able to justify what the abuse of trust that his teacher committed, the fact that now, at the age of 63 he can relate to fact that his teacher was also a victim in that he too was also failed by a society who didn’t intervene or offer him support before it was too late, this is both humbling and hard-hitting.

Throughout Groomed, Sandford is accompanied by the saxophonist Tomm Coles who at times juxtaposes the harrowing tale by playing jazzy and upbeat music, and other moments when words fail Sandford, the melancholic tones go part of the way in expressing the heartfelt emotions that have left him speechless. The recurring use of the melodic When You Wish Upon A Staris particularly haunting.

Every performance ends with an audience discussion, during which,without a script to protect him, Sanford seems all the more vulnerable and exposed, as he bravely answers the crowd’s probing questions.

Groomed provides a platform (supported by the charity Mankind) for Sandford to speak truthfully and honestly about a dark secret that he had previously suffered in silence. Occasionally a play moves you and lingers in the mind long after the final applause, Groomed is one of those powerful, gut-wrenching pieces of theatre.

Runs until22 May 2016 | Image:Peter Williams

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