Hinging on a brilliant central performance by Adam Scott-Rowley, This is Not Culturally Significant is a dizzying one-man show jump-cutting from character to character. Over the course of an hour, Scott-Rowley drags us through a tour of a whole host of gargoyle characters, simultaneously recognisable from reality and yet too grotesque to truly exist. It’s a fascinating contradiction that leaves us deliciously confused.
We’re thrown in at the deep end from the very beginning, as Scott-Rowley, totally naked apart from the occasional patches of white chalky paint, kickstarts the show with the portrayal of a woman masturbating graphically on webcam. And then, suddenly, with a word he snaps into a totally different character – and then another, and then another.
We see a slimy academic, a heartbroken widow, an abusive husband, a desperate homeless woman, and many more. Scott-Rowley flits between these characters with astonishing performance ability, managing to craft each character with clarity and astute observation, while also managing to jump from one to the other in a split second.
The structural integrity of Culturally Significant starts to wobble when the storylines begin to intertwine. A couple of the characters either pop up explicitly in each other’s lives, or are faintly hinted at being connected. Do all of these stories, then, link in some way, or exist in the same universe? Can we disregard the possibility of taking the show at face value – that this multiplicity of people is just the figment of one man’s imagination? The connections complicate interpretation too much. They are too tenuous, too half-baked. It feels as if Culturally Significant needs to make a decision: to fully commit to the connections between the characters, or eliminate any links. At the moment, it is too much of a halfway house to coherently do either.
This being said, it’s worth seeing this show for Scott-Rowley’s performance alone. He is electric, effortlessly shifting voice and physicality to mould himself into a variety of people, second to second. It’s a masterclass in characterisation, hugely impressive and totally deserving commendation. Plot holes aside, This Is Not Culturally Significant is a whirlwind of an hour, jolting us from character to character, all of them distinct and memorable – and some of them utterly heart-breaking.