Alex Gwyther stars in this solo show about a guy called Jack. Jack is in the process of shedding his past identity, Jamie, like skin. He is hoping to be reborn, and rise from the ashes as a ‘real man.’ The audience knows early on that something has happened that made Jack move to a new city. Here, he meets Max, who is everything his friend Sam, was not.
The show switches between the two stories, one in the past that involves Sam, and one in the present. Max is macho, manly, and ripped. Jamie tries to emulate him, he is noisy and loud, picks up women at the bar, objectifies them and drinks heavily. In reality though, he is barely coping. He is barely holding on to his sanity as he tries to fit into this masculine world, which is every bit as toxic as it gets. As one thing leads to another, he gets coaxed into doing cocaine too. He cannot stop now, he cannot ask for help. And so it continues. The references are sometimes too stereotypical, like the refrain ‘boys will be boys’, but this is minor in what is otherwise a great piece.
Through the flashback, we learn of the brutal rape that Jamie was a victim of. He is clearly suffering from the aftermath of the trauma. And the fact that no legal action could be taken either, makes it more real. This show is a full frontal examination of how society treats men and boys. It holds a mirror up to allow us to examine the extent to which modern day masculinity demeans the very men it seeks to uphold.
Gwyther’s performance is brilliant. He presents a ‘cool dude’ front but his intense vulnerability is clear for all to see. The way his eyes dart about when he is trying to impress Max and his pals are a great flip to his vacant, faraway looks as he recounts the horrors he has seen. As the climax brings him face-to-face with Max’s returned-from-active-duty brother, Jack must face Jamie, and our protagonist must face up to his internal dichotomy. The character development in the script is fascinating. An all-round great production to go see.