Skank is a curious play. We’re introduced to the protagonist (Clementine Bogg-Hargroves) as she twiddles her thumbs through another day in her dull office job. She wants to be a writer but in the absence of much motivation, takes temp jobs to pay her bills. We meet the colourful characters she works with (nice sound design by George Roberts), see a window into her attempts to write by hanging out at the local café preferred by freelance creatives and we enjoy her efficient and effective seduction of a graphic designer. But alongside the bright, breezy life of a twenty-something year old woman, we see flashes of something darker at play. She has tinnitus, then a health scare, causing the protective shell she’s created for herself finally to unravel.
Important to say first that this is a comedy, albeit one that’s darkly funny, and this audience laughed a lot. Bogg-Hargroves is a comfortably assured performer, addressing the audience directly in a style that’s somewhat reminiscent of now Fringe President, Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag. She has a wryly perceptive eye for detail, for the peculiarities of our fellow people and for a single girl’s quest for sexual fulfilment. The production is nicely directed by Bogg-Hargroves and Zoey Barnes. And (spoiler alert!) endless kudos to the team for creating a show featuring a smear test as part of the story.
Skank deals with important topics: health, mental health, stress and the struggle for today’s young people to figure out a path through life that works for them. Given the content, the show’s title is a bit of a puzzle. There is an adult episode in the play but unless your morals were extremely unforgiving, it didn’t wholly seem to justify the epithet. If, instead, the story is about the character’s mental health – and rooted, as the programme suggests, in personal experience – spelling out this story a bit more clearly in the overall narrative could have been beneficial. And for anyone struggling with mental health and debating whether or not they should seek help, the depiction of “happy” (or at least, happier) endings is incredibly important.
That said, telling your own story is tough. Bogg-Hargroves is to be applauded for taking this on – and has turned her experiences into a saucily fun hour-long show that will give you some food for thought.