Reality Check


I have written two shows on the Fringe this year.  One, ‘Locked In’, is a biographical piece based on the diaries of the painter, Keith Vaughan.  The other, ‘Strip Search’, is the entirely fictitious life story of a male stripper.

People come out of ‘Locked In’ inspired to Google the life and pictures of an artist who has been largely forgotten (he died in 1977).  This is great.  ‘Strip Search’ provokes a slightly different reaction.  Many ask if it his based on the performer’s life.  Since the story encompasses child abuse, the sex industry, military brutality in Iraq and PTSD, he feels slightly uncomfortable being asked this.

Then people ask if it is based on my life.  As I am 63, and – what shall we say? – horizontally challenged, the chances of my having ever been a male stripper are remote.

I’m interested in why people want to know whether the play is true.  Is it the influence of reality television?  Are we so conditioned to looking through a peephole at other people’s lives?   Does being based on ‘real life’ give a show a kind of status it would otherwise lack?  Certainly ‘Based on a True Story’ appears on a number of Fringe posters, as a positive selling point.  ‘Truth’ seems at the least to offer a kind of insurance; people hesitate to criticise the play, as if to do so would be to criticise the people and lives portrayed.  Conversely, ‘truth’ can give a play a spurious credibility, as if ‘that’s what really happened’ is a substitute for crafting a dramatic entity.

‘Strip Search’ is written entirely out of my head.  My only research, on the internet, was into the geography of Treorchy in Wales and Al Basra in Iraq, neither of which I have visited.  If it turns out that some of the issues have since hit the headlines, this is only because my imagination of what might happen has been accurate. 

This is a different kind of truth, of reality.  Artistically, I like to think it is a purer truth.

Peter Scott-Presland

Peter Scott-Presland is the writer/director of ‘Strip Search’, which is at Space Cabaret, Venue 53, on North Bridge until Aug 25th at 11.05pm.  He is the writer/performer of ‘Locked In’ at Surgeon’s Hall, Venue 54, until Aug 25th at 12.50pm. 


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