This Is Not Culturally Significant
The Bunker Theatre
16th May 2017
Adam Scott-Rowley emerges on the stage ashen-faced, panting and completely naked. Soon, he has become an American porn star, sans costume change, and simulates enjoyment of the un solemnly individual variety. Over the next hour, he sings, preaches, dances and curses in the guise of a range of characters, whose lives trip into each other, spiralling almost out of control. It is an often brilliant piece, which showcases Scott-Rowley’s considerable talents, and demonstrates a profoundly caustic insight into the complexities of the human spirit.
I have, like most of you, never seen a naked play. Yet it is astonishing how quickly you become used to it, after that first flush of awkwardness. Scott-Rowley’s excellent programme notes speak of the play’s genesis, in nights with drama school friends, trying to create characters that were at once outlandish, and truthful. Performing in the nude goes some way towards achieving this, but it is merely an emblem of the play’s candidness. Though the play deals with a great many dark themes – domestic and sexual abuse, homelessness and depression, to name but a few, it never feels dispiriting. Rather, it depicts a dreamlike tapestry of the world, events sewn together by themes and words and, in one instance, disparate renditions of ‘Rule Brittania’. Scott-Rowley does a tremendous job of hinting how we’re all connected, no matter who or where we are – united by the same aching passions, dark and light.
This Is Not Culturally Significant contains some quite unforgettable moments. The pompous spiritualist daring the audience to name an obscure Hindu or Buddhist text, as part of a challenge to see if he can speak on it for just “20 minutes”, culminating (at least, at my performance) with a wonderful piece of audience interaction. A lonely woman reflecting on a juvenile supermarket prank, before dedicating a song to her late lover, an abused wife finally standing up to her heartless husband, a homeless Glaswegian woman pleading favour of an unseen, and unseemly police officer – all four figures are portrayed with an innate sincerity which keeps them on the right side of parody.
Scott-Rowley has a wonderful gift for visual and vocal cues, making his figures instantly recognisable, even as they transform into one another with (by the end of the play) alarming rapidity. Some characters did not work perfectly for me – the middle-class Brexiteer was, whilst well observed, a little too reliant on a catchphrase, and the ailing theatre producer felt too reminiscent of Mitchell and Webb’s snooker commentators. The rushed, or slightly forced conclusions of a couple of stories bothered me slightly; yet on reflection, as part of a piece with begins with an actor standing, vulnerable and fearful on the stage, and ends with the implicitly mistaken belief that it is all finally over, I find a lot to like in alternate interpretations. It is a play which takes great pains to encourage thought, and it is all the more admirable for this.
This Is Not Culturally Significant is an arresting and thought-provoking play, performed entirely in the nude by Adam Scott-Rowley. Once you get over this – and believe me, it does not take long – you are gripped by a gamut of human emotion, perceived in the depictions of numerous absurd, but very recognisable characters. I highly encourage you to see it.