Class Scottee & Friends Ltd and HOME
Class is not an easy play to like; mainly because author / performer Scottie makes it very clear he does not like the audience. ’’This show isn’t for you’’, he states antagonistically. Scottie was born and raised in a working class community and found the experience so traumatic he is looking for someone to blame and, for this play anyway, has settled on the middle class.
For someone so sensitive about class, Scottie does not hesitate to employ stereotypes. The opening part of tonight’s show involves him indulging in a series of clichéd working class greetings including football chants and TV catchphrases. Naturally, Scottie assumes the bulk of the audience are middle class as theatre is enjoyed only by people from that group.
Class is both condescending and judgemental. Scottie offers a working class patron £20 to buy drinks for other audience members from that class; presumably as they plan the revolution. The middle class audience members really can’t do anything right. Scottie acknowledges they might try to help the less fortunate by, for example, stocking and operating food banks but dismisses such action as "performed kindness". One has to wonder why Scottie directs his anger at the middle class rather than, say, the 1% of population who gobble up most of the country’s wealth.
The first part of the show is close to a confrontational / autobiographical stand-up comedy act. It is reminiscent of a Danny Baker routine except it is three hours shorter and replaces tales of lovable pranks within salt of the earth communities with stories about mutual masturbation behind the dustbins. At times, it seems as if Scottie is indulging in a simple desire to shock his audience—offering what Johnny Rotten once described as "a cheap holiday in other people’s misery".
Director Sam Curtis Lindsey ensures Class is a theatrical experience rather than a monologue or comedy act. Katherina Radeva’s set recreates a suburban living room with net curtains and Scottie’s first action upon entering is to remove his shoes as if coming home. One wonders if the garish tracksuit Scottie wears is intended as a tribute to the shell suits that TV programmes once used as visual shorthand to indicate characters from lower socio-economic groups.
Gradually, the tone of the show darkens and becomes more introspective and cathartic—close to a confession, as if Scottie is despising himself for feeling ashamed of his background and trying to exorcise his personal demons. The closing sequence of Scottie kneeling in shadow and whispering examples of the traumatic experiences of working class communities is spellbinding. A particularly strong moment arises when a story earlier played for laughs is repeated in stony silence. ‘’Why isn’t that joke funny anymore?’’ wonders Scottie.
Class is an angry show and deliberately provocative. However, the impact of Scottie’s anger is muted by awareness that it is part of the personality he adopts during his stage shows—a state of permanent outrage; just part of the act. The over-the-top criticising of the audience may not hit the target as many patrons seem to find the barbed remarks amusing rather than painful. But the hushed closing sequence has an undeniable power that leaves a lasting discomfort.
Reviewer: David Cunningham