Penetrator (C Cubed: 3-12 Aug: 18.25: 75mins)

“Flickers of brilliant storytelling”

Editorial Rating: 2 Stars

Anthony Neilson’s Penetrator covers the topics of masculinity, friendship, and how far a man will go for his mate. Max and Alan are friends and flatmates (with differing viewpoints on tidiness and laziness), when old friend of Max, Tadge, arrives unexpectedly, having been discharged from the army. Bringing a vast set of issues none in the group can comprehend we find out how much each of them is able to put up with.

Bizarrely, for a play that’s been produced at the Traverse, the Finborough and Royal Court (upstairs), it’s Neilson’s script which is really the weak link in this production, giving away frustratingly little about the backgrounds and motivations of each character. Conversation between Max and Alan frequently just dies and restarts again on a different topic for no reason, while any sort of tension and narrative drive appear only quite late on. Perhaps it’s all one over-burdened point by Neilson about men’s ability to communicate about emotion or anything of any depth, but even that wears thin as the chatter ploughs on about girls, haircuts, cards and cups of tea without feeling genuine.

The final fifteen minutes of drama are certainly attention-grabbing and tense, even if the motivation behind it feels rather flimsy with very little to establish it. Tadge’s accounts of the penetrators and his father never quite ring true, as the non-plussed reactions of the others smack of disbelief without enough intelligent dissection of the issues to draw the audience in. I was left wondering what all the fuss was about.

In saying all that, the cast do a fairly good job with the material – Chris Duffy is very relaxed and natural as Max, Matt Roberts suitably frustrated as Alan, and Tom White is the most convincing and compelling of the group as the war-affected Tadge. While the tense moments towards the end the production do get a little bit too shouty, the more emotional and thoughtful interchanges – particularly when recalling teenage incidents – are very well-delivered and stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of emotional honesty as flickers of brilliant storytelling.

Given the amount of talent on display at moments during this performance, it’s clear that Fear No Colours as a company have the potential to produce great theatre, but unfortunately this production falls short in too many areas to show them in their best light.

Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 6 August)


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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