Scottee creates theatres of discomfort, often remaining obscured or offstage himself as they play out.
Scottee: Class, Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh * * * *
Class is an uncomfortable work about the pernicious effects of class inequality, particularly engaged with how they play out in the realm of festival-friendly theatre.
And this time, Scottee is front and centre, in our face, a “big fat council Mary”, conversational, confrontational, vulnerable and making us squirm.
The design is bold and simple, Scottee’s red tracksuit popping against an off-white backdrop of net curtain and carpet, which he only steps on to after carefully removing his trainers.
As the hour unfolds, he unpacks his traumatising experience growing up poor on a north London council estate, where women went hungry so labouring men didn’t have to and community whip-rounds covered children’s funeral costs. His charismatic, funny, confident and acerbic delivery asserts ownership over this material without downplaying its relation to stigma and harm.
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Even ostensibly daft moments like a 90s boyband pastiche carry a charge of pathos or menace.
Scottee shrewdly attends how the scripts of class identity can be performed – working-class abjection and violence, middle-class kindness and concern – without really troubling the persistent structures of inequality.
Most challengingly, he explores how this dynamic, and its enablement of the commodification of trauma, plays out in a show like this. He insists on the difference between working-class people and “you lot”, as we’re repeatedly called, the overwhelmingly middle-class audience, standing in for the overwhelmingly middle-class British culture industry. In its careful way, the show is itself a kind of performed violence, or at least confrontation. Within the safe, consensual space of the theatre, Scottee turns the table, points the finger, even stacks the deck.
If you’re middle class, you might prefer to avoid a situation in which you’ll be caricatured, patronised or judged. Not everyone, of course, has that luxury.
Until 25 August