Adam Scott-Rowley's daring solo show YOU ARE GOING TO DIE is a monstrous and magical dive into absurdism

Review by Josephine Balfour-Oatts | 29 Aug 2023

Adam Scott-Rowley is naked, but for streaks of white and blue body paint. He is sitting on a toilet, looking into the distance – the beyond – as if afraid. He is the devil, his back hunched, with one finger crooked, beckoning. He is a stand-up comic, mourning the loss of his wife, and (following a recent, embarrassing episode with a dildo) the death of his dignity. He is an ageing Chelsea couple in the midst of a dying marriage; he is an old man, remembering the courage of his late cat, the day she crossed from this world to the next.

It makes for a kind of emotional gore, this grotesquerie of characters – the way they seem to well up inside him. Scott-Rowley revisits each character at intervals, expanding on them and their stories. Through them, he achieves a type of physical poetry. Each scene is a stanza; each stanza is fleeting, a moment in a series of moments, one life in a series of lives. He twists his face into awful shapes. He is a hailstorm in human form, a weather system with skin.

Scott-Rowley meditates on the happy miracle – and the horror – of having a body. There are implicit and explicit themes of sexual violence throughout; he forces a microphone from the toilet bowl, he skims the seat with his tongue. The toilet is simultaneously a message – enjoy life! don’t waste time! don’t waste energy! treat your body with the respect it deserves! – and an emblem, giving expression to the traumas of being intruded upon, used, or taken advantage of. 

The overall effect is both monstrous and magical. Magical because, here, dying is framed, not as a process of atrophy, but rather as an act of accretion or accumulation: a celebration, a natural gathering of speed and experience, a means of moving towards the end, unafraid. 

YOU ARE GOING TO DIE, Summerhall (Old Lab), run ended