With Brexit stagnating British politics, all our politicians seem to care about is delivering “the will of the people“, based on the results from a divisive advisory referendum result in 2016. We hear repeated sound bites that 17 million people voted for Brexit. However, what you don’t hear mentioned is that 14 million people currently live in poverty in this country. 5 million of those are children. Brutal austerity cuts and Universal Credit have directly pushed people into poverty. There are at least 300,000 homeless people on the streets.
The reason that 14 million voices go unheard is that they are working-class. They have been either completely ignored by years of neglect or demonised by the media as being ‘benefit scroungers’. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening and the working-classes are being left behind. Scottee’s Class aims to redress the balance, dressing down the predominantly middle-class audience, and bringing actual working-class stories to the stage.
This one man show starts off quite light-hearted, as Scottee takes the audience on a journey through his childhood growing up on a council estate in Kentish Town, applying a Channel 4 veneer to things. From losing his virginity behind the bins to forming his own boy band, North West, following in the footsteps of East 17. The grim realities of life are pushed aside by some sassy dance moves, as he gets the audience clicking along to his potential debut single.
Dressed in a red Adidas tracksuit, with gold hooped earrings, Scottee is a pair of Reebok Classics away from being the stereotypical working-class ‘chav’. However, he subverts these stereotypes, being a delightfully camp “big council Mary“. Through interacting with the audience, he builds a great rapport, and his charisma and energy is infectious.
In his trademark style, Scottee humorously berates the middle-classes, showing the gulf between the working and middle classes, ruthlessly holding a mirror up to middle-class privilege. He scrutinises the absurdity of the Waitrose Everyday Essentials range, where olives or artichoke hearts are deemed as essentials. When hundreds of thousands of working-class families rely on food banks, it is easy to ridicule a shop that believes baby avocados are a necessity in life.
Class suddenly takes a dark turn and the sugarcoated veneer of working-class life is stripped away as Scottee sits on the floor and unflinchingly recounts the grim realities of growing up on a council estate. These painful, traumatic experiences of growing up are deliberately heart-wrenching to watch.
Obviously, this is a devised piece, which has been rehearsed and performed across the country, including the Edinburgh Fringe, and it is difficult to discern what is acted, and what is heartfelt realism. There are moments when Scottee becomes overwhelmed and is visibly shaken, his voice cracking with emotion, evidently distressed. Whether this is contrived performance or real emotion is irrelevant because it feels genuine. It mustn’t be easy to go to that place each night, and he openly publishes the fact that he has therapy after every performance on Instagram.
Reaction to Class will vary dependent on whether the audience is middle-class or not. As someone who is working-class and grew up on a council estate, which I still live on, it really resonated with me. I can associate with Scottee’s experiences, as some are quite similar to my own.
I found Class to be deeply personal and profoundly moving. I was blown away by the vulnerability and honesty of the piece. It made me laugh at the beginning, and left me emotionally devastated at the end. In a predominantly elitist art form, it is great to see a working-class voice, telling working-class stories, on a theatre’s main stage.