Skank – Chiswick Playhouse review

Images above: Clementine Bogg-Hargroves in Skank

Skank isn’t about sex as you might expect from the title, but about a young woman in despair, who sees no future. It’s a play, I would hazard a guess, that will strike a chord with a lot of young people at the moment.

It’s a one woman show which is funny and pacy and very well executed by writer and performer Clementine Bogg-Hargroves, but the humour is brittle – the wit and bravado of a young woman trying to find her way and failing.

“I’ve got a job, but it’s not my real job” says the bored office worker who’s never stuck at any employment for more than a few months. “I just have to do it so I can live”.

“My job here is so pointless that I managed to read Revolutionary Road over two days and nobody noticed.

“I’m just not where I thought I’d be. It’s not how I pictured it”.

She wants to be a writer and she’s experiencing the huge let down most of us have felt on leaving university, when suddenly we found we were no longer on a path laid out from one goal to the next, one exam to the next, but cut adrift to shift for ourselves to make our way in Life. It should be easier with an education. An Education is the holy grail, but when nobody wants to give you an interesting job or even answer your emails, it begins to feel like a sentence.

Comparing herself with Linda, who is, let’s face it, “simple”, Kate realises “it’s harder to be happy when you’re intelligent”; when you want more out of life. She wants to be a writer but it seems like an unattainable goal.

You’re probably wondering by now how this is in any way funny. It is and Clementine Bogg-Hargroves sparkles as the young woman who banters with her colleagues and takes the mickey out of them behind their backs. She does a good impression of a confident, sexy girl looking to pull the office dream boat at a party, laying herself out there through her exhibitionism on the dance floor and knocking back shots, but crumpling immediately when he shows no interest.

Like many a comedy, this dances along the top of the fence, teetering between fun on one side and despair on the other; slipping down into darkness and gloom increasingly as it’s revealed that Kate’s stress and anxiety are actually making her physically ill.

Images above: Clementine Bogg-Hargroves in Skank

I snuck into the tech rehearsal (which was perfect by the way) and met Clem afterwards. She has in fact put herself on the line. All that happens in the play has happened to her. She studied Arabic at Edinburgh University, chosen at random because she was good at languages.

“I never understood it when other people said they learned more at A level than they had in their degree. That was not my experience at all. I was learning something new every day”.

Then she found herself on the scrap heap, doing dead end jobs. She found she was so stressed and anxious that she suffered from tinnitus and experienced “derealisation”. It’s a disorder which makes the person feel lifeless and foggy. “The world slows down and things don’t seem real. It’s very scary. You almost hallucinate”.

Having been living independently, she moved back in with her parents.

“I got very strict with my day to day life, tutoring Chinese kinds in the morning and then going to body attack classes at the gym”.

She found both the structured days and the physical activity useful in getting back in control.

In her mid twenties she went to the ALRA, the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in Wigan and the play is directed by her friend and collaborator from there, Zoey Barnes and produced by Mark Ashmore.

“It’s quite surreal that it’s been so well reviewed” she says.

‘A tour de force performance’ – Number 9 Reveiws

‘This is seriously funny one woman stand-up’ – The Brighton Source

‘A constantly funny play’ – British Theatre Guide

Here’s my tuppence worth: A thought provoking and moving bitter-sweet play that makes you smile and laugh out loud.

Skank is on at Chiswick Playhouse from Tuesday 28 September – Saturday 2 October.

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