Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Review This Is Not Culturally Significant

This Is Not Culturally Significant
Devised by Adam Scott-Rowley

Tales Of The Unexpected

Part of being a reviewer are the out-of-body experiences. Those moments when watching a show our mind hovers above, hooks into our brain and drags out like a reluctant piece of chewed chewing gum a long forgotten memory which then becomes a cornerstone cultural reference for the review.

At Adam Scott-Rowley's one-man show This Is Not Culturally Significant, TLT had one of those spiritual experiences!

Back in the day, G Wilson Knight wrote Shakespearean literary criticism, The Wheel Of Fire and The Imperial Theme which students borrowed from the college library and dutifully cited in essays. Little did we know that, one day very soon, we would be able to put a face - and other appendages - to the name.

We all filed in obediently, clutching our notebooks, for the distinguished octogenarian's guest lecture on Shakespeare, expecting the usual - and filed out shaking with laughter.

For Wilson Knight's coup de théâtre was the Timon of Athens finale to his lecture when, to illustrate his point, he stripped off completely naked and stood dramatically posed before us.

Remember please, dear reader, this was BTIMP (Before The Internet And Mobile Phones). At that time we thought Madonna was art school avant-garde.

Surely Knight, who was also a sometime actor and vice-president of the British Spiritualist Association, is the inspiration for the spiritualist lecturer in This Is Not Culturally Significant?

And probably in real life, encouraged by others in the then secure tenure of academia, he was also just a little bit bonkers.

Originally from North Wales, Scott-Rowley, has developed his gallery of grotesques since graduating from LAMDA in 2014, performing fully-clothed at the Edinburgh Festival. Now, having returned to London, he has decided to do what we shall now refer to as a "Wilson-Knight" and perform starkers. And it works.

Scott-Rowley has a supple, graceful, well-defined body with daubs of pagan white which  metamorphosizes with rhythm and dramatic musicality from character to character.

There's the American sex cam working girl, her hick father in the deep south, the Glasgow druggie baglady to, yes, the lecturer in Spirtualism who also runs a theatre company, the bereaved Pinteresque brutal husband and his brutalized wife, a mournful lesbian chanteuse, a needy lover, a club bouncer and pleading clubber, a racist Sussex upper-middle-class housewife.

There's a touch of artist Ronald Searle's types brought up to date in the 21st century with something of Kenny Everett, Little Britain  and the late Rick Mayall (though it sometimes feels quite American) but, dripfeeding the politics, out for pathos as well as laughs.    

We suspect this is a show that has growed and growed and a narrative thread gradually introduced.  The title is clever. It can encompass any range of characters in a loose lassoo and also adds a depth of meaning. 

But for us - yes it's imposing those cultural references again! - it also says something about pre-internet academic judgements when academics, the literati and, fie!, even drama critics waged wars about what was and was not culturally significant with a venom which seems almost Game Of Thrones-like in these more corporate times.

The set design is a simple black box - Scott-Rowley's body is his main prop but there's a stool and in a front corner a chain hangs down with a lamp. The expressive lighting conceived by Will Scarnell and developed by Matt Cater gives the show shape changing from character to character.

The strobe lighting and full frontal nudity won't suit everybody. However the show is enterprising, visceral and entertaining and at barely an hour doesn't outstay its welcome. With a narrative still emerging, and pretty well incomparable to anything in the current theatre scene, we award a green light.

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