SKANK is about a woman in crisis. Writer and performer Clementine Bogg-Hargroves delivers a character study about health anxiety, job dissatisfaction, and looking for love. Or rather, looking for hookups (preferably with Sexy Gary from work). Her protagonist is a jaded 20-something who has found herself stuck in a boring job, no closer to achieving her dreams, living with her brother, and crucially, unhappy.
Other characters are only ever heard as voiceover, which poignantly isolates Bogg-Hargroves on stage. Fortunately, she is more than capable of carrying the one-woman-show, and nails every scene in turn. We like and sympathise with the character from the moment she opens her mouth, and at no point afterwards is she anything less than mesmerising. Whether this is in spite of or because of her often scandalous conduct is up for debate.
Make no mistake, this is a play with no holds barred. We watch a smear test, we hear a scathing review of a sexual encounter, we witness intentionally terrible dance moves. In other words, we are allowed blisteringly authentic access to all areas of a character’s life. Reading in the programme that the writing is inspired by personal experience makes it feel all the more intimate.
Even if that weren’t the case, the dialogue is so well-observed that it would be difficult to find someone who couldn’t relate. Afterall, who hasn’t had an awkward meeting with their boss or been affronted by a catty receptionist? There are more laughs in SKANK than many pure comedies can lay claim to, and most of them come from Bogg-Hargroves’ perfectly timed reactions to these wittily depicted situations.
But beware of the humour! The true masterstroke of SKANK is to get you laughing and then hit you in the gut with revelations that are worthier of tears. The effect is deliciously devastating.
Nothing is perfect, and SKANK is no exception. It is entirely possible to gripe about the loose threads which the plot never resolves or returns to, and the excessive ambition of focussing on so many themes at once. Yet it’s also true that these discrepancies elevate the play’s realism. People do struggle with multiple things at once. Episodes of our lives are left unresolved. It is because the plot doesn’t end neatly that it feels like such a painfully accurate slice of life. Besides, no amount of nitpicking could change the fact that Bogg-Hargroves can single-handedly move you through more different emotions in 60 minutes than you might even think possible.