We were told to meet at the Deli-Lama cafe. Once we were there, we were taken to a secret location to see a performance which doesn't want anyone to reveal what's in it. Consequently, I will write about why I loved this piece of theatre without spoiling it.
Contact Young Company and Hetain Patel have joined forces to create a personal and powerful performance exploring what it means to be a man. The subject of masculinity is such a vast one. However, the focus and strength of this piece lies in the young company's personal perspective on the subject, and in the process demonstrating sheer cleverness and creativity.
After a rather long walk, we looked at an installation before the show began. This of course was in response to the stimulus of masculinity. The installation presented a range of viewpoints and information on the subject from a diverse range of voices and people. It was intriguing, engaging, and insightful. However, the use of post it notes and slips of paper made the presentation look a little messy.
Following on from this, the contemporary, devised performance began. Every single one of the young performers should be so proud of themselves. For their age, they are already giving such mature performances, showing a real understanding and underlying passion for the subject. They switched between playing a role and themselves with clear distinction. They are a youthful, vibrant, and politically charged young company. I love how the piece made you laugh one minute but shocked you the next, especially when something was said or done that just went too far.
On the whole, this piece consistently investigated the notion of toxic masculinity. It is widely defined as a narrow and repressive description of manhood: the noun manhood has connotations with sex, violence, status, and aggression. While it can be argued that all masculinity is toxic because it can inhibit and restrain personal freedom, and what about the societal construct of a gentleman?! Surely this is a positive side to masculinity, which wasn't really explored in the piece. To be a gentleman is to be chivalrous and courteous to others and is therefore a harmless construction. Unless of course it begins to restrict personal expression. I just felt like the piece dwelt on the negative a little too much, surely there are some positives to consider? I admired the piece for looking at masculinity from a woman's positioning too: diversity of voices is important and makes for a more rounded analysis of the subject.
To summarise: Oh Man is a bold, comprehensive, and intelligent look at what it means and what it is to be a man. This piece is not afraid to go into dark places. Brilliantly performed with ardour and spirit by the young company. Congratulations to all.
Reviewer - Sam Lowe
On - 3/08/18