A NEW MAN
01/03/2019 - 03/03/2019
Meet Mr Toxic, the man we all know and hate. He’s been there to catcall, tell you to smile more, or make you feel bad for wearing pink and knowing all the words to ‘Shake it Off’ by Taylor Swift.
All is well for Mr Toxic until one day, karma spikes his drink. From there his life is changed as his body shifts before his very eyes. He develops boobs, a booty, and gets his first period. With this, he is forced to adapt. Can he survive life as a woman in the toxic world he had a hand in creating?
A New Man is a physical comedy exploring toxic masculinity as a clown. It is an original and hilarious solo that explores the depths of gender constructs and ideals. It is a must see for anyone who has encountered toxic masculinity in their life.
Emma has had a love for wacky and crazy theatre since a young age, and seeks to replicate this in the work she creates. She is in her second year at Te Auaha studying Stage and Screen, and has been a drag king for two years.
The Scruffy Bunny at Courtenay Creative, 49 Courtenay Place, Wellington
1 – 3 March 2019
Theatre , Solo , Clown ,
A long way short of meeting its objective
Review by John Smythe 02nd Mar 2019
“A bit school-sketchy,” my companion says as we leave The Scruffy Bunny’s new Courtenay Creative site. I have to agree.
The premise is that Mr Toxic, swaggering about the bar, expressing all the worst excesses of so-called masculinity, suddenly finds himself in a woman’s body. Not that s/he ‘finds himself’, exactly, as a result. The way A New Man plays out on the night, s/he doesn’t learn much at all – and nor do we.
“He develops boobs, a booty, and gets his first period,” the publicity blurb says. “With this, he is forced to adapt. Can he survive life as a woman in the toxic world he had a hand in creating?” Since that was written, getting his first period has become getting pregnant – cue a constant need to pee, strange food cravings and throwing up – and having a baby.
The pregnancy comes by way of a policeman called Martin, played by a sock puppet on the solo performer’s arm. He claims to be wanting to protect ‘her’ from “a very dangerous man”, suggests they “meet over a drink” and tellingly adds, “Make sure you look pretty.” It is this relationship that should confront ex-Mr Toxic with the experience he has inflicted on women but the rushed and somewhat manic ‘acting’ puts paid to that.
“Emma has had a love for wacky and crazy theatre since a young age, and seeks to replicate this in the work she creates,” the blurb tells us. And if A New Man was performed at a High School concert, the students would be in hysterics at the undeniably wacky acting, lo-fi staging and gross-out imagery. But although she gets a lot of very committed support from anonymous stage hands, it takes more than that to appeal to a room full of strangers.
“She is in her second year at Te Auaha studying Stage and Screen, and has been a drag king for two years.” Emma’s drag king persona, Mr Toxic – a man-spreading, predatory, monosyllabic grunter – is clearly delineated in two dimensions but the scenario he plays out in this show does not deliver the promised “hilarious solo that explores the depths of gender constructs and ideals.”
The claim is made that “A New Man is a physical comedy exploring toxic masculinity as a clown” – but I don’t see Clown listed in Te Auaha’s Diploma Course outline. If Emma had experienced any level of Clown training she would have realised, I hope, that it involves a great deal more than being “wacky and crazy”; that a lot of work is required before your clown can sustain a solo show.
I cannot help but recall Australian actor Sue Ingleton’s extraordinary performance, last century – and recalled last year in her From Here to Infirmity show – as Bill Rawlings, the world’s first pregnant man. It was simultaneously blunt, sharp, insightful, poignant and eye-wateringly funny. (See this article also.)
What lets A New Man down most is its failure to clarify its purpose and develop a scenario that explores its theme in a way that compels our attention with inescapable insights into the gulf between male and female psyches and their consequent behaviour. I suspect the desire to perform has overtaken the need to conceive, incubate, craft and develop the core idea – and given Emma has committed herself to working towards a Stage and Screen career, I trust she’ll be receptive to this feedback.
As A New Man stands, it’s a long way short of meeting its objective.
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