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AT THE THEATRE

Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well! Live stage shows in Central Scotland, be they Shakespeare or avant-garde.

Locker Room Talk @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 4th-7th April 2018

The title of writer Gary McNair’s play refers to Donald Trump’s infamous remarks about women. His script revolves entirely around snippets of real-life examples of the kind of things men say about the opposite sex when they are not around. Four female actresses - Rachael Spence, Blythe Duff, Caroline Deyga and Rehanna MacDonald - impersonate these largely toxic male voices directly towards the audience. The one-hour production was followed by an open-mic discussion, hosted by Dr. Holly Davis of The University of Edinburgh, about the issues raised.

Watch a video:

A look at toxic masculinity

Locker Room Talk is certainly a provocative, uncomfortable and - in my experience - all-too-true depiction of toxic masculine attitudes towards women. During many times in my life I have heard (and, regrettably, sometimes joined in with) men referring to the opposite sex in various negative ways, from leering over them as objects of sexual gratification (often wishful thinking), as some form of second-class human being who only have legs “to get from the kitchen to the bedroom”, or as manipulative and inherently insidious individuals who are somehow responsible for all of the evil in the world. One guy who I socialised with down the pub (who initially seemed quite an affable chap) even opined that “statistically, a large percentage of women fantasise about being raped”.

It is quite clear that such talk isn’t acceptable. It is also clear, however, that it has become normalised within our society. Locker Room Talk doesn’t spell out a viewpoint as to why this is the case so much as letting the men (as impersonated by the four women) speak for themselves. As we listen to the barrage of remarks, we experience viewpoints from a wide range of demographic backgrounds. Some of the clearly less intelligent and self-aware types refer to women via such demeaning terms as “brown paper bag jobs”, others see the negative side of the dialogue but rationalise it as “banter”. Later on, the voices of what are clearly young boys make generalisations about girls their own age about their prowess at playing sports, dismissing them as slow and clumsy. It is established that such dialogue is engendered at a young age (and, quite likely, passed down from generation to generation) and is seen as acceptable because it is such a prevalent part of the male upbringing, as well as being a bond that cements male friendships.

Another issue touched upon in the dialogue is that of masculinity being perceived as being “under threat” by women asking for rights. While this is, of course, often based on skewed perceptions, it highlights the extra dimension that many men are quite willing to fight to defend their viewpoint out of fear that they will end up being the oppressed group.

What the play doesn’t do, however, is to ask the question “what do we do about it?” The post-play discussion attempted to address this, as well as allowing the audience to throw in a few wider viewpoints. However, no clear consensus about how we go forward was forthcoming. Of course, such a deeply-ingrained issue never has an easy, potted solution. Therefore, this play should be taken as one to set the ball rolling and hopefully make at least one progressive step towards improving the general male viewpoint towards the female of the species.

The performances by the four actresses were, generally, very impressive, especially considering the use of subject matter that they would, doubtless, have difficulty finding empathy with. However, there was an occasionally rather awkward attempt by one the four to impersonate an accent for one of the characters whom they were playing. It seemed to veer between Poland and New York! Aside from that slight issue, however, this was a powerful and thought-provoking presentation.

Dir: Orla O’Loughlin

Script: Gary McNair

Starring: Rachael Spence, Blythe Duff, Caroline Deyga, Rehanna MacDonald

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

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