Vault Festival 2018: This Is Not Culturally Significant
One man plays multiple misfits in this darkly confronting one-hander from Out of Spite Theatre. In a show that has received acclaim since its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe, the murky depths of loneliness, sex and despair are laid bare. We meet (among others) a down-and-out Glaswegian woman desperate to see her kids, a furiously masturbating cam girl, a bereaved operatic singer and a disdainful lecturer. Thanks to the piece’s deeply committed physical theatre, this multitude of personas bursts forth like creatures wrestling free from an amniotic sac: monstrous, pitiful and disarmingly moving.
It’s thanks to Adam Scott-Rowley’s (creator as well as performer) thoughtful character studies that This Is Not Culturally Significant hits home so acutely. Using bouffon (the art of mockery) and clowning, he conjures up a distinct cast, and embellishes it with myriad accents and a dulcet singing voice. There are details aplenty to cherish, like the subtle transitions between characters, which could be as little as the twitch of a brow and a creeping grin. When some of them interact with each other, the swapping back and forth is seamless.
What’s more, the whole show is performed with Scott-Rowley stark naked, a decision that pays off in this context. It allows the observer to appreciate every sinew and curled toe being brought into play; it makes the playful moments sillier and the vulnerable ones more brutal.
A striking, often televisual aesthetic comprises sharp scene cuts in which performance, music and lighting are flawlessly synced. Thoughtfully choreographed, the piece makes great use of juxtaposition; in one such transition, what begins as one person passed out face first as if dead turns into the coquettish morning stretch of a pretty young thing.
Throughout, there’s a grotesque humour that recalls adult cartoons like Monkey Dust or Salad Fingers. And while there are many moments that evoke raucous laughter, others are unbearable to watch. Snapshots of wretches battling through their personal hell linger on in the mind long after the final bow.
This Is Not Culturally Significant is more than a feat of physical theatre, more than a piece of social commentary: it’s a screaming, contorting demon exorcism.
Photo: Bessell McNamee
This Is Not Culturally Significant was at Vault Festival 2018 on 2nd and 3rd March 2018. For further information about the festival visit the website here.