Words: Stephen M Hornby
“If you’ve never looked at your best mate and thought ‘Might as well’, then have you ever really been bored?”
It’s a typical line from the lighter moments of Scottee’s new one man show Class, full of arch humour at the disenfranchised banality of teenage life growing up on a council estate.
And witty and winsome as such humour is, this is a show with a steel-hard serious core, railing with rage at the humiliations imposed on the working-class.
The show is positioned as being for the middle-classes, and is presented at a perfect venue for that demographic, HOME in Manchester, part of the eco-system of the artsy, liberal, left-up North.
Scottee opens by playing with the likely class composition of his audience, cannily mindful of who is in the house, dismissing those who “identify as poor” but actually live in shared houses in Didsbury, Manchester’s poshest suburb.
The introductions over, Scottee offers up raw slices of his life as “a big, fat, council Mary” growing up in Kentish Town in London.
Knowing his audience so well, he plays to their comfort zone, turning his past into a series of amusing anecdote. This takes the powerful friction in class tension and turns it into easy laughter. As the show progresses though, more and more of the pain and anger behind that tension is exposed and the laughter becomes uneasy and then evaporates.
The show finishes in an extraordinary sequence, as close to seeing someone literally bare their soul as you get. On his knees, strip lit in neon, Scottee turns the pages of a childhood scrapbook of horrors, each page evoking another example of the excruciating personal cost of poverty.
He is so searingly exposed that it almost takes his breath away, and his battle to speak the truth is as moving as it is shocking.
The perfect balance in Scottee’s performance, as he slowly pivots from easy raconteur to tortured confessional, is evidence of the most sensitive and skilful direction by Sam Curtis Lindsey, assisted greatly by an excellent lighting design by Marty Langthorne.
Class is billed as Scottee’s last solo show. As such, it is the synthesis of years of queer performance, a masterful retreat from bearing his soul alone and an exit at the peak of his powers.
Class is a brilliant, angry, damaged, brutal, savagely funny reflection on what it means growing up working-class in the UK.
Class runs at HOME in Manchester till 26 October and then tours nationally in 2020. For the best deals on tickets and shows click here.