Representing the seventh performance since its creation in 2017 – including performances at Latitude Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe – Gary McNair’s work of verbatim theatre, Locker Room Talk feels even more relevant and poignant almost a year on, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Initially recorded by McNair behind closed doors, wherein the interviewees used “words not meant to be heard” by others (especially women), Locker Room Talk aims to expose toxic masculinity within society and encourage a wider discourse on the matter. All of which this performance does excellently.
The audience are welcomed to the performance by McNair himself, or rather an actor reciting a pre-recorded message from the writer, which informs the audience about what they are about to witness. This introduction is very in keeping with the feel of the play, as the actors swiftly take the stage and – after inserting earpieces and synchronising their recordings – proceed to recite statements made by anonymous men on a multitude of subjects including equality, toxic ideology, and attractiveness rating systems.
All of this makes for an incredibly uncomfortable, and at times stomach-turning, experience. Yet, at the same time is utterly engrossing. The fact that the play is performed with an all-female cast only heightens the audience’s level of discomfort. Occasional snorts of nervous laughter can be heard from the audience as they are faced with frankly ridiculous statements made about women, which highlights the different ways audience members cope with such damaging language.
The actors themselves superbly capture their subjects, both vocally and physically – especially when they portray children who voice opinions on ‘why boys are better than girls’. One may argue that their performances are somewhat repetitive, only making serious distinctions using accents to distinguish from the mainly Scottish interview pool. Nevertheless, this also aids the performance by highlighting that these sexist and misogynistic opinions are held by men from all walks of life, regardless of class, occupation, ethnicity, et al.
The performance overall is a highly emotive one, and this is no more evident than in the post-show discussion chaired by Dr Holly Davis from the University of Edinburgh’s Sociology department. While optional, this discussion is almost as important as the performance itself, as audience members bravely voice their own experiences, and proffer solutions to the vile behaviour voiced throughout the play. Together, Locker Room Talk and the post-show discussion encourage a greater discussion about society, one that will remain in the minds of the audience for a long time.