Paul T Davies reviews Fat Blokes at the Purcell Rooms at the Southbank Centre.
Purcell Rooms, Southbank Centre.
8 November 2018
Fat Blokes is the new show from Queer artist and activist Scottee, celebrating ten years as a ‘forward facing fatso’, and his signature take on dance. In his own words Fat Blokes is ‘about flab, double chins and getting your kit off in public’, uncovering why fat men are never portrayed as sexy but always as funny, always the ‘before’ but never the ‘after’ shot. “ Why are fat men always portrayed as the funny best friend or the broken individual? Working with choreographer Lea Anderson and four plus size men, it’s an extraordinary in your face, at times confrontational, gentle, honest and celebratory piece about being the Queer outsiders.
Seconds into the show, Scottee berates the audience for laughing at the opening dance, his rage is well placed and unapologetic, although it is relief to see him grin and begin to banter with the audience. But the point is swiftly made; however much you consider yourself to be politically aware of fat shaming and body issues, this show will make you look at yourself and fat people again, and re-evaluate your stance. The five men are extraordinarily brave and are working and performing in a show like this for the first time. The agenda and context is firmly set by the company, it’s a well-structured piece that is huge fun, but never lets us off the hook.
What makes the show so strong is that, in telling us their individual stories, the performers take time and hold the silence created when emotions take over beautifully. Asad Ullah, who has never done anything like this before, has not spoken with his father for two years, and in that time Asad has become a husband and is very happy with his husband. The cultural relationship with food is highlighted, as is his joy in being love with a fellow ‘fat bloke’. Joe Spencer is brilliant at underlining how fat is a class issue, used to beat the working class down, discussing how food is a quick fix and comforting when being relentlessly bullied. Sam Buttery’s account of being glassed by another gay man, simply for being fat, brings the whole evening into sharp, edgy focus. And Gez Mez is, with a wicked twinkle in his eye, happy with who he is now and a naughty delight, performing a superb dance solo. And Scottee himself shines with anger, honesty, love and support.
Fat is a complex issue, and the show will appeal to anyone, queer or not, who feels like an outsider, and should spark debate about the media’s attitude towards fat and how relentless bullying and denigration will not bring about change. If all this sounds a bit introspective and, pardon the pun, heavy, it’s not that kind of show; in fact, it’s hard to place it into any recognisable genre. What it is is challenging, enjoyable, thought-provoking and the choreography is witty, thoughtful and, I’ll admit it, sexy AF! The previous night I had seen learning disabled artist Ian Johnston’s dance show, Dancer, at Colchester Arts Centre. I’m loving seeing performance spaces being taken over by “outsiders”, radicals, those not usually given access. Theatres take note, a rebellion is underway.
Photos: Holly Revell