Why are fat men never sexy, but always funny? Always the ‘before’ shot and never the ‘after’ shot? These are just two of the questions faced off by Fat Blokes, a (sort of) dance show about flab, double chins and getting your kit off, which came to Southbank Centre in November, 2018.
The show is the work of writer and artist Scottee, made in collaboration with choreographer Lea Anderson, and four additional fat blokes who despite having never really done this before answered the call to be part of Scottee’s fat rebellion.
Ahead of Fat Blokes’ run at Southbank Centre, we spoke with Scottee to find out more about the show and what it can mean for 'fatties' and 'non-fatties' alike.
You’re bringing your latest work Fat Blokes to Southbank Centre this month. Are we right in saying the show has been some time in the making?
We've been making, dreaming and thinking about the show with Southbank Centre for almost five years. Apparently this is quite quick for a dance show, but I'm used to making work that is a bit quicker in turn around; politically responsive. Fortunately fatness is still being portrayed as failure in the UK and so there’s still lots to kick back against. And I’m super excited to be jumping into the newly refurbished Purcell Room!
You’ve described Fat Blokes as a ‘rebellion’ and as a ‘protest’. Against what in particular is that protest?
Against those who mock us in public; against the drivers of vans that have pulled onto the pavement, those who take photographs of us in public space, for those who leave the seat next to us free – not wanting to share the space, to those who have physically and verbally attacked us. It’s a protest against ourselves too – we no longer want to run hiding or swerve those who seek to push us out. We're reclaiming our territory.
You’ve kept the show somewhat neutral – in that it depicts neither all-out shame, or all-out pride in being a fat bloke. Why was this?
Fat Blokes isn't about pride, nor shame, it’s about confusion. It’s about everyone who loves you trying to convince you that you're not fat, whilst the world outside navigates around your body as if it is twice the size. Making a show like this, that uses our actual experience of the world, can't be one-sided. Sometimes being fat and part of a gang feels radical and brilliant, at other times its difficult and violent; the show reflects that.
How did you assemble the cast for Fat Blokes?
I put together an open call on my website. I asked fatties who identified as male or masculine to come forward and show themselves. We had over 100 applications! The folk we use in the show were brought together, because they represent a whole series of fat experiences - where fatness meets class, race, self-loathing and self-discovery.
Was the show fully devised before you brought the cast together, or did the cast help influence the final show?
No, I make all my work with participants. I had a rough idea of what it might sound like in terms of the sound track, but other than that it was all pulled together over three weeks in sunny Southend, where I live.
Has the process of rehearsing and performing the show with four other men with whom you happen to share a body type taught you anything new about what it is to be a fat bloke?
When I'm out walking with the blokes in regional towns across the UK I feel really empowered. Folk don't try and pick on us because we're a gang, a crew, a fat mass. There’s power in numbers ...it's like a Boot's advert - here come the girls!
What do you hope the audience will take away from the performance?
I think fat folk will hopefully see this and hear it to be true, share the experience and understand why we’re angry. For non-fatties - this show still has power. It’s about those moments you doubt yourself, when you take a second look in the mirror and worry what the world will think of you.
With a passion for works that defy categorisation, Southbank Centre is the place to see things you have never seen on stage before. Dance, theatre, comedy, cabaret and all sorts in between, brought to you by international artists and up and coming names.
Fat Blokes by Scottee is co-commissioned by Southbank Centre and HOME.