Whereas “Best Of” albums tend to signal that a band’s sell-by date is overdue, The Worst of Scottee highlights the eponymous artist at the height of his expressive powers. This giddy pinnacle is reached whilst wallowing in the messy gutter of his past. And boy does Scottee wallow in this show…
Littered with chippies, cheap make-up and invented suicides, Scottee constructs a charmingly nostalgic image of ill-advised adolescence. He does this through a series of anecdotes about people he wronged during his Camden council estate upbringing, dragging his own name unashamedly through the mud. Mishaps, such as telling someone you have HIV when you don’t, are high in the perverse dark humour stakes and pack shock factor like a Daily Mail headline. When its boils down to it, though, Scottee is no more “a bad person” than the next guy. In fact for all its brash over-exposure, the show serves as a gentle, melancholy reminder of how easy it is to tell lies and how unwittingly we hurt those around us. Scottee is an amplification of our self-obsessed, oblivious modern selves.
Framed in profile and live-streamed on video from the inside of a photobooth, the staging is perfect as it effortlessly conjures associations with both Roman Catholic confessionals and our culture of carefully packaged self-representation. It is both a public space for exhibitionism and a lonely private cell.
There is however, something emotionally gratuitous in watching a grown man recount the grubby blunders of his youth, even when he’s dressed in drag and crying tears that resemble oil slick. Much of Scottee’s previous work focuses on food, greed and obesity and whilst on the surface this performance is stripped back and brutally honest, it has a glutinous, slutty side too. Yes, he speaks with an economic and penetrating wit and wastes no words on morally condoning or condemning himself but everything about his monologue is gobby, indulgent and excessive.
It seems that we’ve built up a culture around this stuff, getting off on seeing other people “confess” or bare all: a constant, ultimately wretched, retching up of things that our parents wouldn’t even dream of admitting they wanted to know. There are no closed doors behind which to wash your dirty laundry and indeed we wave it around in the proverbial street known as the internet. Facebook break-ups, twitter trolls and tinder dalliances – let’s face it we are all pretty much running naked around cyberspace. The Worst of Scottee feeds from this culture of over-sharing, where our wild, inappropriate, wrong side is just another attentively created and curated aspect of our online personas. Scottee’s show reflects on the ubiquitous selfie and the Facebook generation who put themselves in the stocks and see public degradation as entertainment. Up this close, it makes for hilarious but powerfully unsettling viewing.
The Worst Of Scottee. The Roundhouse, London NW1 8EH. 10 February 2014. £10-£15. Until 15 February. www.roundhouse.org.uk