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As a fixture on London’s alt performance scene, Scottee generally has two modes: channelling Hattie Jacques as outsized sequinned host of skewed variety nights like ‘Hamburger Queen’ and ‘Eat Your Heart Out’; and performing mute clowning routines about beauty, mess and mortification. His full-length solo Edinburgh debut, ‘The Worst of Scottee’ fits into neither camp. (Indeed, it's listed in the Theatre section of the programme.) Instead, it’s a piece of high-concept enhanced storytelling about his youth on a north London council estate, initiated by an invitation to a broad circle of acquaintances to share their memories of his worst behaviour and its effects. Tales emerged of teenage relationship-related acting out, professional irresponsibility and familial subterfuge; some respondents are shown being interviewed by a psychologist in between Scottee’s revisiting of the incidents in question. His assets as a performer include buckets of charisma, a powerful visual sensibility rooted in bold colour choices and a surprisingly rich and riveting singing voice, all of which are put to good use here. But the show’s real coup is its set: a photo booth incorporating a live video feed, so for the most part we observe Scottee side-on as he addresses us face-on from a screen. It’s a set-up at once evocative of nostalgia, surveillance and confessional, diary and duplicity; he’s at once alone and observed, alienated and up-close, exposed and two-faced. Superficially, ‘The Worst of Scottee’ is an acutely narcissistic project but, as the show touches lightly on subjects from weight and wealth to sexuality and state power, it describes a troubling picture of vulnerable youth and raises highly provocative questions about the limits of individual agency and responsibility. I’m not sure whether the ending quite works; even so, ‘The Worst of Scottee’ is one of the most impressive, affecting and unsettling productions I’ve seen this year.
And if you like the sound of this, try:
‘Nobody’s Boy’, a rough but remarkable song set by newcomer Adam Caslin that uses the music of Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone and others to express a young gay journey of the heart with palpable pain and anger.
For more from Ben Walters in Edinburgh, follow him @not_television