This Is Not Culturally Significant was a highlight of this year’s Vaults Festival. Adam Scott-Rowley delivers an exposing performance that simultaneously shocks and slays his audience. What’s more, he is entirely naked for the whole thing. Now it has quickly transferred for a three-week run to The Bunker and judging by its current reception will only transfer onto bigger and better things in the near future.
I caught up with writer, performer and all-round superstar Scott-Rowley to discuss how the show has changed since Edinburgh and how he came up with the idea for such an extreme, exposing performance:
Tell me where the idea behind the show originally came from.
The characters came about before the show, wanting to play about with people who are hiding something. Whether it’s pain or lies sitting below the surface; damaged people or those with a secret; people who are trying to cover something up by using humour or an overt personality. We wanted to see how far we could push it without it becoming caricature, trying to make it as extreme as possible but also as truthful as possible as well.
We also played about with leading the characters into each other – one’s orgasm could lead into another’s pain or tears. That started to link them – it became a game, how could you link these two completely polar opposite emotions, snap between them? What effect that would have on an audience?
When I decided to form this into a show, I thought more about how each would know each other, how they can follow on from each other. Some of them are related, some of their paths cross in the same world. But I didn’t want to make it a group of people that all regularly interact – that would be a bit too weird.
Does it get extreme reactions – people that laugh at one moment and then instantly feel ashamed?
If that happens, it’s done its job. I like that people laugh at something and then question whether that was the right thing to do – an absurdity that then feeds into humanity. The idea is that it flips on a knife-edge, an audience trying to come to terms with the humour of it after having such a guttural reaction.
The nature of the piece is quite extreme, but you’ve got one step further and perform it entirely naked. What was the reasoning behind that choice?
It’s to bring vulnerability to the whole thing – the show is very intense and extreme, so it’s quite easy to isolate the audience. If there’s a sense of vulnerability in my performance, hopefully the audience are slightly more on my side. It brings parallelism as well; you see yourself in these people more readily because you’re watching a representation, a blank canvas. They’re very physical and don’t need costume, they come fully formed so anything else would be a distraction.
It heightens everything too – the sadder parts are even more pathetic when it’s just this guy wanking on his own; the funny bits are funnier as well because it’s more absurd.
I have this theory that after six minutes, people are completely desensitised to the nudity and are fine with it. The interesting thing with The Bunker is that the bar is on the stage; at The Vaults, I stood there as people came in but here I have to come on stage. It takes a bit longer for people to warm up to it.
When you walk in and are confronted with the nudity, you can either choose to leave or stay and see where the show takes you – it breaks the ice.
At The Vaults festival, it was given a Show of The Week. Did you expect this level of success?
Not at all – we did it in Edinburgh and that was a nightmare. But it was a clothed version at The Pleasance at 3:30pm – this family friendly venue. I had so many walk-outs in every show!
London has been a much more responsive, sensitive and kinder audience. The nudity has put the show into the right category now – it wasn’t quite sure what it was before. It depends on what people expect of the show and what they want out of it; perhaps Londoners have more of an idea about what they expect from a performance.
A lot of the show will change during the run, depending on audience reactions. It hasn’t all been created at a desk, it’s all one machine. I’m really intrigued to see how it changes in this run at The Bunker, over three weeks. It will change – I’ll get bored if it’s the same every night! There’s no point it in being a set thing, it’s so live and dependent on the reception. So, come and see it now and also at the end!
Who or what is your inspiration?
I’m from North Wales, so going back to the mountains and escaping from it all helps to clear my head a lot. In terms of figures, I love Sarah Kane’s work – I think Blasted is one of the best pieces of work ever written. Dickie Beau as well, I love his style and how he’s twisting conventional form in theatre.
This Is Not Culturally Significant plays The Bunker until – 3 June. For more information and to book tickets, please see the website.