Zero by Popcorn Productions is about surviving trauma in the transitional period from teenage years to adulthood; it is also about consent and questions our ability to relate events in a linear, narrative form.
The staging of the piece is minimal. One performer (Grace Vance as Beth), a stool, a cigarette and a lighter. Beth has stepped out of her own 21st birthday party to talk to us.
It takes her a while to find her feet, to get comfortable with us listening to her story, to what she has to say. As she begins, she could be seen to be no different to any other twenty-something, confident woman. She’s embarrassed by her dad’s dancing and keeps an eye on her best friend as she makes out with he DJ.
It soon becomes apparent that Beth has a lot more to tell us, and that perhaps she is finding the words as she goes. At its core, Zero is a disruption of familiar narratives of trauma - where a singular episode triggers a chain of events leading to a culminating point; in Beth’s case, an attempted suicide. This is not how it happened for Beth, and this is not how she tells the story.
Rachel Ruth Kelly’s script reveals relatively early on that Beth has experienced “severe suicidal ideation”. This is the first diagnosis Zero offers us, and as it unfolds we find out more about Beth, her survival of bulimia nervosa, her own and her family’s relationship to depression.
As the piece develops, we begin to piece together Beth’s allusions to past events and episodic storytelling in an attempt to bring clarity to her experience.
As well as the character’s complex relationship to her health, Zero explores Beth’s romantic relationship with a man, experiencing abuse, and illustrates the complexity of the ill-understood idea of “traumatic bonding”, which can lead abuse survivors to maintain or develop feelings for their abusers. (LB)
ZERO is on at 13.00 at Underbelly Cowgate until August 28th. Hearing Loop available - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/zero
An animated video on consent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQbei5JGiT8
Research on traumatic bonding: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/springer/vav/1993/00000008/00000002/art00002