Adam Scott-Rawley has a great body. This is the observation of my companion while we wait for This Is Not Culturally Significant to begin. We’re actually trying to avoid looking at his body, as he stands naked and unashamed onstage, but we’re also attempting to appear cool and unembarrassed so we can’t avert our gaze too obviously. She’s right about his body, in more ways than we anticipated (as it turns out).
This one-person play is a wildly creative piece of writing and performance from new company Out of Spite Theatre, which made its debut at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe. It’s designed to shock and provoke, to lift the rock and scrutinise the scurryings of the dark sides of ourselves. Taking on a huge cast of characters, writer-performer-director Scott-Rawley introduces his audience to – among others – a homeless woman, a porn star (and the father who misses her), a bereaved singer, a sex-addicted bully of a man and his timid wife, an insecure club-goer and a lecturer on a mission to safeguard the sanctity of the arts.
Scott-Rawley creates universally recognisable figures and draws them out until they’re disfigured and damaged; past the point of caricature. His naked body is the ultimate blank canvas for his compellingly physical performance. Graceful one moment and monstrous the next, he warps between ages, genders and various states of health and mind. He transitions continually from one into another; sometimes fluid and sometimes abrupt. As the piece nears its climax the distinctions blur, the characters bleed together, and Scott Rawley fuses their shared experiences to examine their common humanity.
This Is Not Culturally Significant probes the relevance of theatre as an art form and pokes through the fourth wall to mock its audience. It is darkly comic; a play with a twisted sense of humour that dares its audience to laugh. We howled throughout, but it’s not hard to imagine This Is Not Culturally Significant being met with stunned silence. Walk-outs are, apparently, common.
Scott-Rawley showcases a diverse array of talents in this whirlwind hour of theatre. His writing is crafted with clear attention to detail, and he acts with care and precision. His versatile ability to sing, clown, mime and perform vocal acrobatics creates a stunning piece of work. As we confront his nakedness in all its contradictory conditions – vulnerable and powerful; oddly desexualised even when he’s miming masturbation – he grapples with life’s absurdities that most others choose to ignore; out of embarrassment, laziness, discomfort or disgust.
Reviewed by Annabel Mellor
Photo: Out Of Spite Theatre
THIS IS NOT CULTURALLY SIGNIFICANT plays at The Vaults until 19 February 2017