Artist and writer Scottee writes for Culture about Things We've Always Wanted to Tell You, a newly devised piece of work 'for a middle-class audience' premiering at this year's Dublin Fringe Festival.
I’ve been making a show of myself for going on 10 years now. I make autobiographical theatre about the stuff we tend to not want to talk about around the dinner table, stuff that has happened to me and my loved ones.
I am lucky enough that my job is that I can make theatre shows across the world. Wherever I’ve made work those commissioning me, funding the work and even those watching the shows tend to be middle class or richer.
Listen: Scottee talks Things We've Always Wanted To Tell You on RTÉ Arena
I am the child of a very proud working-class family, grafters who left Donegal in an attempt to find a more secure income, a better life - a life they never found. Despite growing up in poverty, in the eighth most deprived area on the UK (an area largely populated by the Irish diaspora), I’ve always been made to feel proud about my people, our stock, where we’re from, but I’ve only recently felt able to put my head above the parapet and talk about class explicitly in my work.
When you utter the c-word, people either attempt to brush off as the chip on your shoulder or try to convince you the class system doesn’t exist. The real headwrecks will tell you they are working class because they’ve managed to affect an accent and once had an overdraft to pay for a ski-ing holiday.
When you come from poverty and hardship you grow up quick. You very quickly normalise the horror of knowing life is precarious, and from a young age you adopt adult stresses and coping mechanisms - long before you should. I buried these stories, those experiences under mountains of shame and inadequacy as soon as I came into contact with those with money, those who didn’t know survival, those without trauma. Hauling this shame and trauma has meant I’ve not wanted to open those wounds ...until now.
What I love most about making this work is being in a room full of artists all of whom know the shorthand, those who get what you mean and why it hurts, why it needs to be said...
After a brilliant trip to Dublin last summer mentoring artists, running workshops and some late-night chats with Dublin Fringe Director Ruth McGowan, Dublin Fringe invited me to think about what making a piece of work with other working-class artists would look like - what would a show directed by a child of the diaspora, co-created with working-class artists living in Ireland look like."
The result is Things We’ve Always Wanted to Tell You - a newly devised piece of work that is for a middle-class audience. A show that will aim to unfold difficult truths of growing up working class, what shame looks and feels like for us, but most importantly what people in that room could do with their privilege.
I landed in DUB hours ago and already the brilliant ensemble are throwing everything at it - we’ve odes to our Aunties, memories of getting carpets, addicted Dads, tea towels and the bright lights of Lidl.
What I love most about making this work is being in a room full of artists all of whom know the shorthand, those who get what you mean and why it hurts, why it needs to be said and who are also asking the question - how do we solve it without compromising our pride as proud working-class troublemakers?
Things We’ve Always Wanted to Tell You is still being made, who knows what it will end up being, all I do know is already I’m feeling very excited to be back in Ireland, making work with this shower, and ready to start some fires.
See you on the other side.
Scottee & Friends Ltd premiere their new show Things We’ve Always Wanted to Tell You at Project Arts Centre from Sep 18 - 21 as part of the 25th edition of Dublin Fringe Festival - find out more here.