WhatsOnStage Logo
Home link
Interviews

5 minutes with: Scottee - 'I am a bit like the Shirley Temple of live art'

The performance artist on how he got into theatre, the police turning up to his first show and his new piece, Putting Words in Your Mouth, for the Roundhouse

Performance artist Scottee
© Christa Holka, 2016

I didn't go to stage school, I didn't train, I have no formal qualifications, I don't even hold a GCSE. I was taken out of formal education when I was 14 and luckily I lived across the road from the Roundhouse and I lived down the road from Camden People's Theatre. They put on Saturday workshops with local kids from the estates and my mum encouraged me to go along.

Stepping into an arts space was like finding my people. I could be who I wanted to be and no one was going to ask if I had any qualification. I got picked up by a theatre company called Spare Tyre and by the time I was 18 I had been touring with them, I was chairing the youth board at the Roundhouse and had been in a show at Hampstead Theatre.

Simon from theatre company Duckie says I am a bit like the Shirley Temple of live art. I've grown up making rubbish work and finding my feet but having to do that very publicly. But even now I am plagued by a crisis of confidence where I don't feel legitimate. I don't feel like the predominantly white, middle class and educated art world want me to be there.

After doing The Worst of Scottee for two and a half years, I got bored talking about myself. I decided to try my hand at directing at the Roundhouse and Words in Your Mouth felt like the right piece to do it with. Don't tell anybody, but I don't know what I am doing. I am making it up as I go along.

During the last election I realised I was disengaged from mainstream politics. I wanted to see what other white, working class queer people were feeling. So I interviewed people across England and three of them appear in this show. Broadly, Putting Words in Your Mouth has themes of political identity and sexual identity. But the show isn't about coming to hear people talk about politics, it's more about that period of time. In the piece, actors lip sync to the actual interviews. So they are on stage mouthing along to a soundtrack and have to learn other people's speech patterns, breath and the way that they laugh.

The police showed up at my first show, Mess. It was about bodily fluids and they turned up and said: We think you are doing things you shouldn't be. There were two police vans and they looked through my props and saw it was just scissors and tomato ketchup. I don't know who rang the police, but I think it's about control. Fortunately – or unfortunately depending on where you stand – it didn't stop me and it informed a lot of things I have done since about justice, fairness and questioning authority.

I have the next six years planned, but this is my last show as associate artist at the Roundhouse. I will be scouting another venue to support me over the next five years. I have just written a play called Bravado which opens at Camden People's Theatre for Sprint Festival and I have a show as part of the Southbank Centre's Being a Man festival next year too.

Putting Words in Your Mouth runs at the Roundhouse Theatre from 22 November to 3 December.

Loading...