As I watch Kim Scopes frolic around on stage in a fluffy unicorn onesie, two things happen in my mind. The first is the realisation that, in all my years of watching, reading, and even performing in what I would argue is a pretty diverse and eclectic range of theatre, I have yet to encounter a story that features bisexuality. This could be a reflection on my limited scope, a limit which I need to interrogate, or it could be to do with the invisibility of bisexuality in art and media – which, coincidentally, is one of the big points of Somewhere to Belong. The second thing that happens is the re-awakening of conversations I’ve had with myself about my own sexuality, and how I’m never quite sure which box to tick on equal opportunities forms. These thoughts evolve into an unexpected and fruitful conversation after the show. The fact that Scopes’ work provoked this active thought and post-show discussion is really important to acknowledge, and I would hazard a guess that I wasn’t the only audience member to experience this.
The first half of the show features no dialogue whatsoever from Kim (who takes on a persona named CK), but a lot of physical comedy. We are launched into a game show set-up, in which a looming voice overheard informs CK that she must ‘explain what she is’ through various ridiculous tasks, including fitting herself into the correct box, and ‘dressing to impress’. It is at this point that the onesie is offered up, and CK learns with dismay that a unicorn is a bisexual woman whose sole sexual ambition is to participate in threesomes with straight couples, and not just a beautiful mythical creature. The message of this first section is clear: people who are attracted to more than one gender are constantly being asked to prove themselves and validate their identities. It’s fun and light-hearted, if a little on the nose. With the silly noises and facial expressions, I feel a bit like I’m watching the queer edition of Mr Bean, which is not a sentence I ever expected to be writing. Scopes clearly takes enjoyment in this mode of performance, though, and the warmth rubs off on the audience.
As we enter the latter half of the hour-long performance, the game show format quite suddenly drops away. Following an amusing interlude involving unicorn shadow puppets and sexy biscuit eating, Scopes begins to earnestly talk to the audience about her experience of being queer – although she isn’t convinced that she’s ‘queer enough’ to be making this show. This thoughtfully taps into how, in a heterocentric and patriarchal society, women are told that their sexuality is trivial. Also, the fact that CK hasn’t spoken for the last half an hour means I am now keenly listening to her words. In a moving if overly-saccharine anecdote, Scopes regales a transformative moment of self-acceptance prompted by a performance from comedian Reuben Kaye. I personally knew nothing about Kaye, and was given little to no context, so the story was difficult to connect with. Saying that, it did prompt me to look him up afterwards – I was not disappointed.
In the closing moments, we are played snippets of testimonies from bi, queer, and pan people – the creative team carried out over forty interviews with a diverse group. Similar themes are returned to; questions of visibility, validation and community. The authenticity of the voices is joyous to hear, but I find myself wishing they had been interwoven more throughout rather than tacked-on at the end. There is a certain jarring disconnect between the sections of Somewhere to Belong, which ironically left me wanting the show to define itself more clearly. Saying that, perhaps the mess and chaos – queering the structure, if you will – is all part of the appeal.
Somewhere to Belong is, all in all, a playful, thought-provoking, and extremely honest piece of work. Scopes confidently shines a light on the bisexual experience, and reaches out with a hopeful hand of solidarity to anyone who is figuring it all out too.
Somewhere to Belong is on at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre till 30th July. More info here.