08 July 2013

Report: The Worst of Scottee

I've been working on a show called The Worst of Scottee, it's a solo piece by, you guessed it, Scottee, the fat homosexual wunderkind of the British performance scene, instigator of Hamburger Queen, and director of Unhappy Birthday.

The Worst of Scottee, directed by Chris Goode, is an exploration of the performer's most unappealing behaviour, about the lies he's told and the people he's alienated. It's autobiographical, funny and, based on overheard design conversations, is going to look amazing. But it's also gritty; this is part redemption narrative and part: "I told everyone I had AIDS just so they would feel sorry for me." Yeah, he really did that.

My role has been to interview a bunch of people that no longer speak to Scottee because of his atrocious behaviour, to give them space to vent about what a little shit he has been, and maybe to find some insight about his conduct. These interviews have been filmed by Judy Jacob in a studio and will be screened as part of the performance. The interviewees have been very brave in coming forward to speak – and be filmed too – not necessarily knowing who the person is at first, and talking about what went wrong. 

Here's a teaser clip of one of the interviews:

I love to interview people at the best of times, and enjoy the strange crossovers between interviewing, performance and therapy that seem to emerge when I work on one of Scottee's shows. It's been a privilege to hear these people's stories, and to help make a space where reflection, humour, anger, bewilderment can happen relatively safely. It's brilliant to see how transcending the silence that surrounds relationships that ended badly can enable new creative and productive things to grow.

Anyway, enough of the woo for now. What I love about The Worst of Scottee is that it reminds me of how the worst stuff is often the best. I used to think that being fat was the worst thing I could be – wrong! In fat activist culture, there is often an emphasis on being beautiful, worthy, good, healthy, sexy and so on. This is understandable given the desire to counter the daily hatred that many of us face. But my fat liberation includes space for the horrible, the grotesque, the ugly, ridiculous, pathetic losers too. I think that being able to cope with the worst of ourselves is where freedom lies, it's about not having to present a virtuous public face, but being comfortable with our basic humanity, which isn't always pretty. This is where queer theory can be so helpful, it enables people to adore what is classified in by the normals as abhorrent; what's awful is actually great. I really love that topsy-turvy aesthetic and if The Worst of Scottee enables at least one fat queer fuck-up, or anyone else, to feel a bit more comfortable in their skin then I will be very happy.

It's been really great to work with a fat queer performer who is willing to take risks around their identity, and to push for something more. I think it's fantastic when performers with marginalised identities use their power and become advocates for a bigger life for all of us. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Beth Ditto has been such a profound role model for so many fat people; she enables people to imagine something better for themselves. I think Scottee does this through his work too, particularly with this new show and with other projects that will be on their way over the next few years. It feels amazing to be part of a company where fat and queer and working class identity is explicit as a key performance aesthetic.

The show is supported by the Arts Council, and premieres at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 1-24 August 2013, you can buy tickets online. After that, The Worst of Scottee will be touring around the UK and heads to London Spring 2014. Keep up with the hashtag #WorstofScottee and DO NOT MISS IT.

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