The expectations imposed on men – to compete for alpha status, to court the most attractive female, to hide emotion – is an unsurprisingly taboo subject. It’s a point made all the more glaring by the three person audience at this performance. Craig Malpass’ one-man show sees his character, James, clearing out the attic of his childhood home, sorting through the boxes full of his childhood and all the memories that come with it. The good and the bad.
Malpass’ performance is intended to be perceived as everyman – he is performed so casually that moments of misogyny and toxic masculinity can pass almost without being noticed, for example when he finds a selfie of his childhood bully and his wife, and remarks that “he’s bagged himself a nine”. The satire takes a moment to sink in, the audience response proving the point being made. Intense moments of his sexual hatred towards women are realised in brutal fashion. Even so, his emotionality can be lacking at times; during some of the most crucial scenes, his expressions do not fully express the hurt and exhaustion his character is experiencing.
Malpass’ eloquent writing has some strong imagery in it (such as the poignant meaning behind the title) and trips nicely off his tongue, though it is scattered with inconsistent and distracting rhymes. Small details come off as recycled – for example, his mother remarrying a dull square with a train set hobby – but the bigger issue is the pace and tone of the piece. The storytelling is somewhat meandering. Points that could have been better made with minimal explanation, like the earlier example, are drawn out and lose their interest.
The Spider Glass discusses some important themes, themes that need to be addressed more in theatre, in such a way that audiences can reflect on the effect of masculine culture in their own lives. However, the story means that it fails to engage its audience in its discussion.