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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Q&A : Skank

Skank is a play about a young woman in her 20s, who has yet to find her place in the world. It presents a character who is hard to like but easy to understand. In distracting herselfwith trivialities and trying to ignore truly frightening developments in her life, Kate (Skank) is just like the rest of us. Produced by Future Artists, Skank enjoyed a short (and critically very well received) sell out run at the Edinburgh Fringe 2021 and now is back at the Fringe for a full run.

We asked writer and performer Clementine Bogg-Hargroves a few questions, trying to decipher what makes Skank such a compelling character.

Would you say that a mind-numbing job eventually leads to a mind-numbing life?

So, everyone’s version of a ‘mind-numbing’ job is going to be different, for me; it’s any job where I’m expected to show up at a certain time, on certain days, doing the same tasks over and over and over again. But it’s difficult to assume that because you have a dull job, you have a dull life. If we consider it in percentages then the answer is probably yes because the majority of us spend over half of our waking hours at work.But sometimes the ratios of fun outside of work outweigh the waiting for the sweet release of death when at work. Personally though, if I’m spending the majority of my time in a situation where 5 days a week I am so bored that I have to find the fun in making a cup of tea every hour or checking to see if PornHub is indeed blocked on the work computer, then I’d argue that regardless of the fun ratios outside of those hours, I would have a mind-numbing life.

Do you think we wouldn’t find so many people hard to like if only we understood them?

Yes 100%. The prevalence of cancel-culture and black and white thinking seems to have dulled our capacity for empathy in recent years. This is a well-trodden argument but the calls to see the grey areas seem so quickly and loudly drowned out and I find it quite scary. I recently read Jon Ronson’s book: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed?, and it just highlighted to me the readiness to dismiss making a mistake as inherently human - a total uninterest in understanding that we are flawed.

I have become alot less arrogant and so much more tolerant of other humans over the years, which has been reflected in the evolution of dialogue between Kate, the main character in Skank, and the other characters in the play. This is dangerous territory but I’m quite a judgemental person; something which I dislike about myself and something that I’m constantly working on. The first draft of Kate’s character was quite judgemental and incredibly cynical, over time these edges have softened slightly but not to the point where the honesty is lost. We are all victims of our first impressions of people, and sometimes we are right in assuming that we won’t be going out for a bev 1-2-1 anytime soon, but there is something so exciting about being proven wrong and connecting with someone that you’d originally overlooked.

Do you think most people prefer to conserve a self-image, that they are fully aware is not an honest depiction of themselves?

I don’t think it’s necessarily a conscious decision to create a social image for yourself, it’s most likely a survival technique. In Skank, Kate is at times crippled by existential dread and her obsession with death, but she puts on a front at her office and makes jokes because she has the unconscious capacity to think: “maybe don’t go round the office naked shouting: ‘I can’t stop thinking about death. I can’t stop thinking about it. What it’ll feel like. What is the actual bollocking point in anything? We’re all heading towards the end anyway, one boring admin task at a time.’” It’s just easier to put on a front sometimes, isn’t it? When I was younger I used to think that I was the only person who was truly suffering with all these existential crises, but as you get older you realise that the universe isn’t spinning around your selfish arse, and that everyone is dealing with something. I used to find small talk unbelievably tedious and BORING! I always wanted to get to the gritty, emotional stuff in any conversation, but I’ve come to consider that people might want a break from the dark recesses of their brain, and they need to talk about the weather without you turning Storm Dudley into a metaphor for the pointlessness of human life.

What would you say is the easiest way to discover the cracks in our own system?

I hope you don’t mean the cracks in our social and political system as I don’t believe a moron like myself is well equipped enough to answer anything on that level. I’m going to take the question to mean in our emotional system... is that a thing? It is now! I think the best way to discover and face our weaknesses is to put ourselves in situations where we’re frightened to fail. Once you’ve failed at something you care about deeply, you find out who you are. Will you give up or find the resources in your...emotional system... to keep going. I’m still working on that.

Would you say that we are all too complacent about the trivialities that end up taking over our lives?

It’s difficult because for most of us (depending on our socio-economic bracket) our day-to-day lives are littered with a certain amount of trivial tasks and thoughts. Some of these trivialities are necessary for maintaining daily living, but as is the case with most things, it’s about finding the balance between the trivial and the meaningful- a certain amount of triviality can be grounding. However, they can easily tip into being this big ugly blockade stopping you from seeing life beyond the to-do lists. In Kate’s case, she seeks out trivial pursuits as a way to avoid the possibility of not reaching her dreams. It’s sometimes easier to bury yourself in procrastination than to face your potential, but without the trivial there may never be the fantastic.

Kate (Skank) aspires to one day become a writer. Do you think she will make it?

Ooooooo I hope so! Kate is a procrastinator, and she likes to talk about stuff more than she likes to ‘do’ stuff at the stage we see her in Skank. There’s hope for Kate but I think she needs to stop dreaming about her future and get on with making her future. Kate is excited about life even though she finds it challenging and she does have many hopes and dreams, which I think is the starting point. She may need to lower her expectations slightly though; I don’t think she’s necessarily realistic about where her first writing venture is going to go. Kate’s gunning for a direct line into the Booker Prize Top 10 when we’re probably looking more towards a 100 word column in her bi-annual office magazine. But first she needs to stop watching so many films and get on with making a film. Sorry I mean, writing a book. That last bit was in no way directed at myself. I’m really productive. I am. Honest.

Skank, Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance 2), 4.40pm, 3-29 August (not 16)


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