The Fringe: Days 9-12 - FITTING IN
Where do I fit in?
It's an important question to ask oneself at the biggest performance arts festival in the world. Amongst the hours of flyering and talking about your play, not only is it good to get perspective on what makes you unique and why people should come and see YOUR show about others...but when you feel you're using your work to do important big-picture work, it's vital to know what others are doing. Change is, after all, a group process.
So, over the last few days I started looking at the shows that were dealing with toxic masculinity.
First up was Square Go - a delightful in-the-round piece that, whilst playful in it's pro-wrestling style with fully immersive crowd participation, looks at the masculinity present in young boys. The two actors playing school boys awaiting an unintentionally provoked fight (otherwise known as a square go) with chief school thug Danny Guthrie, are fantastic in their boyish, energetic portrayals and the knot-in-the-stomach feel of the playground fight resonates with every man in the room, as other themes of absent fathers and peer pressure paint an all-too real picture. It's a great piece of theatre.
Next up, Daughter, by Pandemic Theatres - well, I loath that I loved this. One man recounts the birth of his daughter, his experience of being a father and husband...well, his experience of being a man with his shame and actions on full display. It is the best thing I will see this year, I think. It also leaves audiences awash with conflicting appreciation - did I HATE that? Did I love it? Do I approve of what they're doing? ARE they doing a good thing by highlighting these issues? I'm being coy because if it comes to your city then I want you to see it. They provide a space afterward to talk about the show and give a small zine (a cool word for magazine now, apparently) to everyone who leaves the theatre. They know what they are doing is controversial, and they know that they have responsibility as storytellers. For me, that's enough. They're giving people the opportunity to digest a very visceral piece of theatre that will have affected every audience member in some way. I'm still digesting the content now and will be for weeks, at least. It sets a bar for me as a writer, performer and storyteller myself.
Finally we have Angry Alan. An American man who tells the story of how he feels the Men's Rights Movement in American is speaking to him in a way that he can finally get on board with - where men aren't the problem, but it's what is expected from them by women that has caused this epic pressure on men's shoulders. Even suggesting that this is the reason suicide rates are so high. It triggers me because I wonder if my life had taken a different path - one that didn't encourage and introspective view of myself - would I do be finding the language of men as victims appealing? It's entertaining and unsettling and, though not the same visceral reaction as Daughter, leaves me with plenty to ponder.
One thing that is obvious is that the state of masculinity, and the toxicity that can come from it, is a GLOBAL issue. At least in Western cultures. These plays from Scotland, Canada and the US prove that this is a planetary psyche that is reacting in all sorts of ways...and has been for generations. I find each play fascinating and entertaining in their own way and it's reassuring to me that these issues are highlighted.
And that brings the question "Where do I fit in?". Speaking candidly, all of these productions have bigger budgets, bigger venues and arguably more experience in developing such projects. And yet...I know I offer something different.
This is not to say these productions have 'missed a trick'...every piece of art has it's desired purpose, I like to think anyway, and all of these highlight important issues about masculinity.
However, I am challenging men to look at their own story. With The Spider Glass, having delved into my own life and hearing the accounts of many other men, there are so many threads that ring true; the lack of mature male role models, the influence of institutions such as school and family, the objectification of women and the overall sense that men have not been given the tools to navigate relationships with the world in a healthy, emotionally mature way. Many of us feel like lost boys, a lot of the time.
Initially daunted when seeing this other work, I KNOW I'm doing something important. I'm doing more than my bit. It's not in a feeling of superiority for me, but just a different take that is my own and yet adds to these other pieces. Through the personal work I've done myself I feel the show is giving all genders another angle to look at their own lives, or the men in their lives, so we can see where things may have gone awry - only then we can start to do the work to see where we might start to have the nuanced conversation that being the complex manifestation of consciousness that is being a human being requires.
There's a reason that doing this work is so important to me. It's because I know it's needed. And just like these other shows, I fit in just perfectly right now! Let's keep fucking going then!
The journey continues...
My show, The Spider Glass https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/spider-glass