The Itch

A case study of involuntary self-torture

M. is afflicted by an unsatisfiable itch on her head. She just can’t stop scratching and tries everything from brain scans and hypnosis to wearing a gridiron helmet to bed. Based on the bizarre true story detailed by The New Yorker in 2008, The Itch burrows into a violent and fantastical case study of involuntary self-torture.

Part-documentary, part-black comedy, part-unconventional bildungsroman, this immersive monodrama stars vocalista Carolyn Connors as the itching M. with some of Melbourne’s best scratchers on viola, cello and double bass.

Composer Alex Garsden’s music straddles the classical and the industrial. This is his first opera.

“In the corner of a large and lofty living room in Elwood, a beachside Melbourne suburb, three string players slap and saw at their instruments. A wheelchair-bound woman in a hospital gown writhes in anguish, emitting snatches of text and wordless swoops that cover at least five octaves.”

“An anguished (at times pained) audience grappled with this afflicted woman’s agony nervously laughing, fearing for their own safety, and perhaps sanity…”

‘It is not so much the astounding flexibility or range of Connors’ voice which impresses, as her ability to make it work expressively within the ensemble… a unique meld of vocal and instrumental colour.’


Commissioned by SWEET

Co-Commissioned by: Mary Cohen, Ray Barry, Michael Bink, Mark & Tamara Boldiston, Rosemary Connors, David Dearie, Helen Gifford, Brenda Jewell, Zachary Johnston, Macarena, Leigh Mackay, Jenny Melican, Elena del Mercato, Helen & Peter Murdoch, Susan Pelka, Mari Sakurai, Sally Sharman, Jenny Smith, Marsha Tauber, Lorraine Weiner, Gary Westbrook, Melanie & Michael Young

“Its mysterious power may be a clue to a new theory about brains and bodies.”

Atul Gawande, The New Yorker