‘How To Be A Man’ review – a necessary attack on masculine ideals

By / 2 years ago / Arts / No Comments
‘How To Be A Man’ review – a necessary attack on masculine ideals

How to be a Man destroyed the belief that there is any right way to be a man. Using a Guide to the Art of Manliness, a real book published more recently than you’d hope, and mannequins Manfred and Leo, actor and script-writer Jon M Coleman demonstrated his contempt for masculine ideals. From a demonstration of the ‘man hug’ to a story of masculine bonding involving whiskey and masturbation, this one-man play shone a critical light on the pressures men face in order to maintain their ‘maleness’.

‘From a demonstration of the ‘man hug’ to a story of masculine bonding involving whiskey and masturbation, this one-man play shone a critical light on the pressures men face in order to maintain their ‘maleness’.’

Coleman began boldly in a pair of boxer shorts, setting the scene for the stripped-back play that would be equally revealing of damaging societal pressures. The mannequins, cleverly taking on characters of their own through the use of recordings, acted as critics of such pressures as well as the demanding voice of society. For example, when Jon donned a dress (from Topshop, he told us), Manfred asked when he would be changing into a suit. The performance built up layer after layer of expectations and rules, until soon even Jon himself cracked, revealing how pressure and suppression of feelings can lead to outbursts of frustration and anger.

‘The performance built up layer after layer of expectations and rules, until soon even Jon himself cracked, revealing how pressure and suppression of feelings can lead to outbursts of frustration and anger.’

Despite addressing the supposed insufficient right to complain about being a ‘white, straight male’, How to be a Man revealed the build up of feeling that leaves many men ‘unable to express’ themselves and ‘desperate for approval’. A particularly poignant moment in the production saw Jon standing alone on the stage after a burst of anger which left both mannequins in pieces, suddenly revealing Jon’s own isolation. Clear with its message and effective with its delivery, How to be a Man makes a necessary attack on masculine ideals in 2016, its very creation proving its relevance on our stages today.

Jessica Newgas

(Image courtesy of Jon M Coleman)

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked. *