Friday, 19 May 2017

REVIEW: This Is Not Culturally Significant at The Bunker Theatre

Some people are born to be performers and Adam Scott-Rowley is one of them. His debut show, This is Not Culturally Significant, was playfully devised during his years of training at LAMDA and has been gradually developed into the current fifty-minute single act. After a showing at last year's Edinburgh fringe festival and unanimous critical acclaim at the 2017 Vaults festival, it has now transferred at the brand-new Bunker theatre.

Taking in-yer-face theatre quite literally, the young writer, performer and director behind This is Not Culturally Significant appears on stage, after a momentary black-out, entirely naked. Sat on a stool, with his legs spread in the air, he's playing with his genitals and faking an orgasm, whilst impersonating an American woman who works as a webcam porn-star. 

Once the shock-factor is out of the way and the morbid curiosity for assisting to a nude performance is satisfied, the audience seem to get quickly at ease and someone even dares interacting with the brilliant performer. Combining dark clowning, mime and physical work, this one-man show presents a collection of characters that, in different ways, carry a strong political and social message. From the lonely widow who fights depression to the desperate housewife who gets abused by her husband, everyone has something to say and Scott-Rowley lends them flesh and bones with extraordinary skill. An old-fashioned lady politician talks about her past career, a terminally ill West End producer shares an opinion about theatre, a pretentious academic gives a lecture on spiritualism, a father craves the company of his family, a young gay man makes some enemies in a nightclub, an old crack user faces an arrest and a young woman is being filmed by her lover. All these distinct identities have their own voice, unique poise and an original set of gestures and facial expressions. They feel extremely real and the performer's body is possessed by their personalities. His physical command is mesmerising and the presence of clothes or props to swap in alternation would have fragmented the impressively smooth transition between roles. 

Will Scarnell's original lighting plays an essential role in the development of the
piece. The actor's pale skin is in contrast with the well-defined shadows that his crippled figure draws on the background wall or appear elongated at his feet. Warm shades and stark spotlights follow the characters and help to set the tone for the scene in which they are immersed, together with Graeme Pugh's upbeat sound effects.

Between art and PR stunt there is a fine line, dictated by the ability to convey a relevant message. In this case, the message might not be culturally significant, but Adam Scott-Rowley's performance is artistically ground-breaking for his ability to transmit so many different layers of meaning with the simple and perfect use of every inch of his body.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★★
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