top of page
  • Flora Gosling

Review: Pain and I (Summerhall)

Sarah Hopfinger dances with a lifelong companion

At the start of Sarah Hopfinger’s autobiographical dance theatre performance Pain and I she invites the audience to sit however they like. There are chairs, beanbags, floor cushions, we can even lie on the floor if that suits us. We can leave, look away, fidget, stim, whatever will allow us to enjoy the performance best. We are not only invited to be comfortable but told that the space only works if we are. At first, for theatre-goers who are hardened to the usual etiquette, it takes a moment to get used to the idea. But for this performance about Hopfinger’s experience with chronic pain it makes sense: Pain and I simply wouldn’t work without breaking through discomfort.


The performance plays almost like a theatrical zine. The poetry of the script is accompanied beautifully by the visuals of her movement and dance; both are so understated that one cannot be understood without the other. The structure is broken up into parts, which don’t break the performance up by theme or time period but nevertheless feel like a turning of the page, a new way of looking at the same problem. And like a zine, though it is short it feels very distilled. Hopfinger has burrowed into the core of each aspect of her relationship with pain and extracted a way to communicate it. One of the most striking moments is when she describes her conflicting, negative feelings towards her pain (“I can’t be bothered”, “I can’t live like this”) not by depicting those emotions or wallowing in them, but by relaying them warmly, factually. What we take away is not just the exhaustion of chronic pain, but how Hopfinger has made peace with not being at peace.


Photo Credit: Tiu Makkonen

Part of why Pain and I is so effective is because of its intimacy. It is not necessarily the space or the distance from the performance: simply being in Summerhall’s TechCubeO does not guarantee intimacy. It is not even that Hopfinger is naked throughout the performance, a detail that is easy to forget when discussing what made it memorable. It is because Hopfinger’s approach leans into the liveness of performance to make the audience aware that although they may not have chronic pain, they share space with it. She connects with her audience rather than talking at them: looks them in the eye, uses up all the space, and allows them to soak her in and witness her body dancing not in spite of but with her pain. Four stars.

Pain and I has completed its run at Summerhall, but will be touring to Greenock on the 29th of March, Hawick on the 3rd of April, Mull on the 6th of April, Cumbernauld on the 25th of April, and Shetland on the 10th of May


Featured Posts

Recent POSTS

 Search by TAGS 

bottom of page