Meet Kate. She’s a skank. Stuck in a job she hates, Kate dreams of being a writer. Anything to get away from her irritating co-workers; Anal Annie, Linda (who has the world’s most awful laugh), and her woefully dull manager, Chris. As relief from her mind-numbingly boring job, she investigates which of her colleagues have watched porn on their computers, orders sex toys online, attends beginners knitting classes, and imagines ways that she can ensnare Sexy Gary.
Skank gained notoriety in the GM Fringe when it got reviewers banned from Twitter, myself included. Apparently the show’s title is so offensive, it incites hatred. The play had a sold out run at Tribeca, and has now been revived as part of the Kings Arms’ Best of the GM Fringe Festival.
Playwright Clementine Bogg-Hargroves plays Kate, superbly carrying the entire show on her own. All other characters are realised through amusing voice overs, the majority of which are also performed by Bogg-Hargroves. She injects Kate with a joyful vivacity, fully embodying her character to create an amusing Bridget Jones figure that the audience can identify with. Despite being hysterically funny, Kate is a woman who is struggling with her mental health. Her anxiety becomes overwhelming and she suffers from panic attacks.
Confirming how talented Bogg-Hargroves is as a writer, Kate is a fully-rounded character who is comical, yet also evokes empathy. At no point does Skank feel like a recital of lines. Kate is entirely believable. With excellent direction from Zoey Barnes, Bogg-Hargroves has flawless comic delivery. She is remarkably skilled as a comic actor, dropping killer dance moves, saucily thrusting her pelvis, and giving cheeky asides to the audience.
Bursting with confidence, the performance is more assured and slicker than it was the first time I watched the play. The small edits made to the script work well to refine the comedy, in addition to emphasising Kate’s psychological panic and anxiety.
As a playwright, Bogg-Hargroves has an incredible skill of turning the mundane into fine comedy. Kate’s passion for recycling results in her carrying around an empty tin of Aldi baked beans for the entire show. At a work’s party, she smuggles in miniature Smirnoff bottles and drinks from her bean can. A trip to the doctors for a smear test turns into a spat with the rude receptionist.
However, it is in Skank‘s more tender moments that Bogg-Hargroves’ talent shines through, as both an actor and playwright. When the results of Kate’s smear test show that she has abnormal cells which could be cancerous, she precisely captures the fear every woman feels when they receive their smear results. The numbness and shock she portrays when she hears “the C word” is rendered with absolute sensitivity.
Kate’s vulnerability is exposed when she attends her colposcopy. This is poignantly portrayed without the need for dialogue. It is Bogg-Hargroves’ mannerisms that speak a thousand words. Tears run down her face and she reaches out for the nurse’s hand to hold, bean can placed on her stomach. It’s an emotional moment that reveals the character’s fragility, whilst also reflecting how awful and terrifying the procedure is.
Wickedly funny, yet deeply moving, Skank is a magnificent debut play. It is brilliantly constructed and impeccably performed by Clementine Bogg-Hargroves, working alongside director Zoey Barnes. Together, they make a supremely talented comedic force to be reckoned with.