Sunday, 20 October 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: How To Beat Up Your Dad - The Tallyrand Theatre, Manchester

How To Beat Up Your Dad is about Eamonn; a young man’s journey through to manhood.

Like with most shows I review I veer towards cross-art forms and experimental material. This time I’m at The Tallyrand in Levenshulme, Manchester. A new generation of young, personable hipsters gracing the local cafe bars with underground and experimental work.

The night set up by Autre Half Promotions began with a 45 minute solo music set from Aldous RH. Geared with a Microphone and a mixer (not the one you use with spirits) he sang along to sensual '70s summertime classic rock; singing love songs and cosy anthems. His persona was gentle with hip rocking, progressive, funk and soul - he’s one to watch in Manchester.

After a short break the title show begins unnervingly quickly. Drumsticks slap loudly through the audience. A trunk opens unwillingly on stage with Eamonn crawling out showing his vulnerability. We are confronted with pride verses shame after being forced to reveal himself to the audience.

The show floats in and out of violence and humour with: Eamonn and other characters; Theo and Albert (as themselves, and their personas, both trying to be centre stage); and absurdity and storytelling. We see Eamonn as a young boy, naked, in a quick, yet disturbing exchange with a Priest which sets the tone for darker times to come. This provocative scene was portrayed in a sensitive and whole way. However as Eamonn gets older the interactions he encounters become more domineering, and the audience learn how he has to battle with each interaction to reach the top of the ladder, and ultimately win at being a man.

I particularly enjoyed their stylistic approach to storytelling, with poetry and spoken word used as a device to explain traumatic events which had me cackling, quickly loudly, throughout. The juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy is perfectly balanced here.

The actors keep expanding their approach with a direct showcasing of extreme masculinity - almost forcing the actors to become volatile, confronting real life drama in a man's world against each other, and following this, the audience live through it all moment-by-moment by creating a real edge to this piece. Toeing the line so carefully that the piece could explode any minute, which was really thrilling.

It was, however, on a production level tactless at points and insensitive. I worried who was in the audience - will they be triggered? I’m no 'snowflake', but more disclaimers or trigger warnings might have been needed. Yet, at the same time, I admire how brutally honest it was - you can’t argue with how raw and real it felt. Uncomfortable laughter knotted together with well-written punchlines shows the audience that these actors are having fun whilst really trying to teach us something special here with elements including seeking approval from the audience and clown. It was everything and anything. Yet with it being free form, comes a lack of precision with the overall outcome. What did they want me to go away thinking about, because the subjects covered are profound: abuse, tragedy, one-upmanship, violence, therapy. 

Having said that I would consider this show (albeit with more care and attention to certain aspects) to be a staple theatre piece to showcase to young men to alter cirlic behaviour acquired from generations before them. This show holds the potential to change young men going forward [aka stop feeding the monster]. One particular line stuck out “Being friends is like a competition”. How To Beat Up Your Dad is rebellious, it is punk, it is a bit scary, it is Berkoff, it is brave, it is a true reflection of the complicated and funny journey; manhood. I think.

Reviewer - Susanna Amato
on - 18/10/19

Read Susanna's interview with Theo and Albert here ...

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