China Plate presents

The Shape of the Pain

And there he was. Right person, right place, right time. Tick, tick, tick.


Run time: 70 minutes

Age: 14+

Content warnings: The performance includes flashing projection – there are moments in the show where there is rapid, similar-to-strobe lighting.

A woman directly looking at the camera, with a square cube outline over her face.

The Guardian

4 stars

Sunday Times

4 stars

The Edinburgh Festival Magazine

4 stars

"This one-woman show is a smart, funny and far from disconsolate inquiry into the knowability of someone else’s experience. The sound design and visuals have a pulsing power."

Sunday Times

A woman looking off to the right, against a projected background, the text reads 'and please or... irrelevant really.

The Shape of the Pain

Developed by Rachel Bagshaw and Chris Thorpe
Written by Chris Thorpe
Directed by Rachel Bagshaw
With an original score by Melanie Wilson

Fringe First award-winning production about love, perception and constant, relentless pain.

This tour de force performance from Hannah McPake sees one woman attempt to articulate her experience of pain. Physical pain with no apparent cause. Also, she’s met someone, and they really want to make this work.

“This is an exercise in empathy – and it is exhilarating theatre.” – The Guardian

“The masterful combination of sound design, lighting and projections coinciding with McPake’s performance offers an overwhelming glimpse into a life unwillingly shared with pain.”The Edinburgh Festival Magazine

The Offies Nomination Sound Design Logo The Offies Nomination Lighting Design Logo The Offies Nomination Video Design Logo

Funded by The Wellcome Trust and supported using public funds from The National Lottery through Arts Council England. Commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre / New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich. Supported by artsdepot.

Photo © The Other Richard

Watch Now

Rachel Bagshaw was commissioned by the BBC, The Space and Arts Council England to create a short film for their Culture in Quarantine programme. Where I Go (When I Can’t Be Where I Am) is created by the team behind the multi-award winning, critically acclaimed theatre show The Shape of the Pain.

Conceived and directed by Rachel Bagshaw and written by Chris Thorpe, the film follows one woman as she remembers a past relationship whilst experiencing an episode of extreme physical pain. Based on Rachel’s own lived experience of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, the film weaves together video design, sound and words to explore how we talk about pain and love – and if we can ever do either in a way someone else will truly understand.

It is available on BBC iPlayer: CLICK HERE TO WATCH

This film is best experienced via headphones for the full effect of the sound world. Integrated audio description and subtitles are included.

Audio description information: during the film, the performer sits at a table but also moves around to different rooms in her house as indicated in the text: sitting on the bed, in an armchair, the hallway. In the pain episodes, the sound effects are combined with a visual world which uses split screens, pixelated images and text, close ups on the performer’s face and house, and spectrum of colours and textures.

Filmed in Lockdown is a series of new works of literary, musical, visual, and performance arts, commissioned for Culture in Quarantine by Arts Council England and BBC Arts. For more information about the film, please contact Rosie Kelly.


The Shape of the Pain and Where I Go (When I Can’t Be Where I Am) will be featuring as part Sophiensaele’s Cripping the Pain festival (29 July – 1 August).

Due to take place in June 2020, the festival has been reimagined in digital form to present artistic works, workshops and conversations which explore and defy dominant ableist perceptions of the body and pain.

29 July | Artist Talk + Film | Zoom

Join Rachel Bagshaw, Hannah McPake and Melanie Wilson, as they discuss how The Shape of the Pain was created and adapted to become a short film during the pandemic. The talk will also explore how Rachel’s own lived experience of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome informed both the production and films text and aesthetic and the importance of integrating access throughout the process of making artistic work.

Registration opens from 21 July: please visit Sophiensaele’s website for more information.

31 July | Digital Workshop | Zoom

Join Rachel Bagshaw, Sophie Woolley and Joshua Pharo, as they share their experiences of using captioning as a creative tool, alongside demonstrating how other artists and practitioners can use and develop their own style of captioning. The workshop will be delivered in spoken English and British Sign Language (BSL) with translation into German Sign Language (DGS).

Registration sign up required: please visit Sophiensaele’s website for more information.

1 August | In Conversation | Zoom

Join Rachel Bagshaw and Raquel Meseguer, as they discuss their lived experiences of chronic pain and/or exhaustion. They will address navigating an often ableist art sector and share what working methods and aesthetics they have developed, whilst asking the question: What might a performance sector look, feel, and sound like that does not devalue but values the lived experiences of disabled and chronically ill artists?

Registration opens from 21 July: please visit Sophiensaele’s website for more information.

Creative Team

A woman sitting in a wheelchair, not looking at the camera, with a pen and paper in hand.

Rachel Bagshaw

Award-winning director & theatre maker; recent film adaptation of The Shape of the Pain for BBC.

Read more
  • Director | Rachel Bagshaw
  • Writer | Chris Thorpe
  • Performer | Hannah McPake
  • Original Score | Melanie Wilson
  • Designer | Madeleine Girling
  • Video & Lighting Designer | Joshua Pharo
  • Movement Director | Raquel Meseguer
  • Access & Audio Description Consultant | Michael Achtman
  • Production Manager | Helen Mugridge
  • Associate Director | Rachel Lincoln
  • Sound Associate | Kirsty Gillmore
  • Video & Lighting Associate | Sarah Readman
  • Artist Wellbeing Practitioner | Louise Platt
  • Filmmaker | Rachel Bunce
  • Producer | China Plate

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