Bravado review at Camden People’s Theatre, London – ‘unflinching honesty’
Blood, spit, tears and cum. That’s what theatre-maker Scottee’s latest show, Bravado, boils down to.
It’s a memoir of a north London childhood marked by male violence, alcoholism and sexual assault. It’s an unsparing dissection of male identity – of its tribalism, insecurity and oppression.
Though it’s debuting as part of Camden People’s Theatre’s Sprint Festival, a tour of non-theatre spaces like rugby changing-rooms and pub backrooms is on the cards. The DNA of these places, like the wildernesses of Scottee’s youth, is wired into the staging. It’s in the blocky, 1990s TV sets and the karaoke-style text they display. Adam Young’s video design is a montage of static-y testosterone-filled shows from Scottee’s childhood – a broken memory.
Like much of Scottee’s recent work – including Putting Words in Your Mouth, which exploded the racism of gay men via lip-syncing black performance artists – Bravado isn’t a static portrait. At every performance, Scottee’s text will be spoken by a different audience member.
Every falter and awkward intonation, each pause (scripted or otherwise), makes you listen differently, and more closely. By absenting himself from the stage, the sharing of Scottee’s recollections of destructive masculinity – his unflinching honesty, humour and anger – feels like an act of community.
As this is a first performance, there are a few rough edges. The Oasis songs dividing each ‘act’ play for a little too long and, sometimes, they a little too simply underscore the morass of hurt, confusion, lust and self-loathing that Scottee skilfully lays bare. But Bravado is an astonishing show. It’s an open wound that bleeds painful truths.