Mansplaining Masculinity (Cabaret Voltaire, 8 – 30 Aug : 12.05pm : 1hr)

“An engaging and thought provoking discussion… honest, revealing and accessible”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Outstanding

“This isn’t a comedy” Dave tells us, wearing a purple dress and a fedora, without a hint of irony. It is however, an incredibly engaging and thought provoking discussion into the notion of masculinity that’s honest, revealing and accessible. My words, not his.

The show is framed around a survey carried out by Pickering, which asked 1,000 men to share their opinions and experiences about patriarchy and masculinity (anonymously). It also includes a raw account of his own sexuality and identity, and during the performance he attempts to piece the two together.

Although researched to an almost painstaking degree, and written and structured with a lot of love, Pickering doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, or that his show will somehow cure the world of its ills. Instead it’s an exploration of an idea, and insight into a side of the human state that receives little attention. It was passionately and engagingly delivered, and he even gives references for further reading on the topic – a first for me at a Fringe show.

During the performance Pickering certainly doesn’t shy away from the big issues – there’s talk of rape, emotional abuse, bullying and more. But it’s not spouted in a preachy or melodramatic way – it’s a simple recount of some very personal experiences from his own life, mixed with responses from the survey, and weaved together with some very intelligent discussion and line of questioning.

As a discursive show, it was very effective when Pickering referred to results from the survey, but it was almost tantalising that he did so only rarely, as I would have loved to have glimpsed further into the world of what men really think. He did at times refer to other well known (but uncited) general facts which did give the piece some added clout – how men commit more crimes, carry out more successful suicide attempts, and earn more money.

The anecdotal parts of this show, where Pickering shared memories from his traumatic home and school life, and his first sexual experiences were very moving, and made me question my own coming of age and identity within the “patriarchy”. His openness is absolutely commendable, and it really enriches the piece by bringing in personal as well intellectual engagement.

I feel the content of carries great social importance for people of all sexes and ages, and this is a very entertaining and enlightening way to spend an hour. I urge you to see this show.



Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 22 August)

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