Chris Thorpe on The Shape Of The Pain

“The idea for The Shape Of The Pain all came from Rachel Bagshaw, the director. “She’s lived with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) since the age of 19 and she felt she’d become experienced enough as an artist to make a piece of work about the syndrome without self-pity. She wanted to create something that could be informed by the pain without being all about her pain. “She asked me to work on it. Initially, I didn’t want to get in the way of her relationship with her pain and the piece that might come out of that. But we met for a cuppa and she explained the syndrome. As she talked about her perception of the pain, we realised that was actually the show she wanted to make. We wanted to try and find out if an explanation of pain is even possible. “That’s the central question of the show: how do you begin to describe pain with no cause? In this case, it is played out against the fractured arc of a love story. [youtube id="LSh6SRkqm04"] “There’s a simple-seeming answer to the question in this case, because part of Rachel’s CRPS is her synaesthetic response to the pain. She perceives it as colours, shapes and sound. She can describe those to me, and the particular qualities of pain they link to, and I can adapt [them] into the show. “But still she isn’t really describing pain, is she? She’s describing a set of objects that stand in for it. “It’s easy to explain the mechanisms of CRPS and how constant pain with no apparent cause is neurologically possible. It’s also possible to describe the objects it creates. But it’s a bit more complicated – in fact, not really possible – to describe the underlying feeling of that. “And that’s what’s interesting, both in terms of a specific relationship in the show in which pain is a huge presence, and also for all the other things in life that aren’t necessarily pain but are equally difficult to share. [caption id="attachment_277816" align="alignnone" width="300"]The Shape Of The Pain at Battersea Arts Centre (Image: The Other Richard) The Shape Of The Pain at Battersea Arts Centre (Image: The Other Richard)[/caption] “Creating the show has been incredibly difficult for Rachel. In part, that’s because another CRPS symptom is acute sensitivity to anything that makes her aware of the pain. Talking, listening to sound, seeing visual patterns that relate to the pain all make it worse. To say it was a challenge for her to direct would be an understatement. “And there’s also the challenge of honesty. The show and the relationship in it aren’t strictly biographical, but Rachel needs to be completely honest about her life, and the pain, in a way that roots that relationship in truth. “Bringing the show to Battersea Arts Centre feels like coming home. They’ve been so supportive – not just of this but of other projects we’ve all been involved in – but particularly in the time and space they’ve allowed us in making this. We’re bringing the show back to some of the people who helped it exist. And that feels fantastic.”

The Shape Of The Pain runs at Battersea Arts Centre from 20 February to 10 March.

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