Locker Room Talk by Catherine Carnie
Locker Room Talk by James O'Brien
The slimy, self satisfied and sexually soaked voice of our current President of the Free World - which booms at the beginning of the piece around the space of Locker Room Talk - is the inspiration for this disturbing and shockingly necessary piece of talk theatre.
Director, Orla O’Loughlin, sets the conceit of women speaking men’s words as she introduces herself as Gary McNair (creator of the piece) - and sets out his wares - a text crafted from utterances of ‘real’ men who reveal what men say about women when women are not around. The words are drawn from ‘the office block to the tower block’ and expose a complicated and uncomfortable truth. They reveal where we are right now.
Four chairs, each spot lit and set with a microphone and a music stand with iPhone and headphones is the space. Four women enter the stage and each occupy their own/their characters’ space. The performance entails the 4 actors retelling verbatim, as they hear them through the headphones, the words McNair recorded from a vast range of men of different social, national and age demographics.
From the outset Orange T-shirt woman keeps the banter going – generating sniggers and giggles from the audience, strangely endorsing the misogynistic threatening vibe of her/his words. Pink T-shirt woman morphs vocally and physically seamlessly between the man who choked his wife to death, to the golf club member lawyer who indulges the female members their Glittery Lunch.
The excellent cast perform Girls Are Weak And Boys Are Strong with subtly and nuance as convincing 5 year olds all shifting feet, hands in front of their mouths and endless giggling. As the piece continues O’Laughlin’s direction subtly calls in the audience’s own acceptance of the status quo and their sniggers subside - the relentless uncomfortable misogyny took over the space generating an anger and disbelief.
Locker Room Talk is less a piece of drama – rather an anti-manifesto for misogyny in our world. The piece has created a space for conversation around this and more. A staging direction includes a post show discussion about the issues raised in the piece and today’s, chaired by Dr Nina Burrows, explored accommodating difference and complexity – the fact that the biggest cause of young men’s death in UK is suicide and that today the definition of being a boy is - not being a girl - all uncomfortable but real.
Can a valid point be made for the dissemination of vile misogynistic tropes disguised as banter, camouflaged by the rank bonhomie of the locker room? The Beavis and Butthead inanity of Trump and his cohorts steamroller us into a paradoxical world of hatred and fear that the big guys wouldn’t want Ma to hear.
Traverse’s production of McNair’s play, a Dantesque collation of verbatim misogynistic sludge trawled from the male gathering places across the world is hammered into shape and directed with an understated intensity by Orla O’Loughlin. She utilises a minimalist, high-tech approach, to enable the uniformly excellent female cast of four, Jamie Marie Leary, Joanna Tope, Maureen Carr and Rachael Spence, to adopt the alienated insouciance required to articulate the repellent undertow.
By separating the text from gender and gender mediated by technology a unique transition occurs. It is immersive in the true sense of the word. We are subsumed into a perverse reality, almost a generality but one which is blank-eyed and despairing and all the more powerful for it.
This device renders the verbal violence uttered by men but delivered by females, the designated target, a cumulative power, investing ‘Locker Room Talk’ with a double intensity, rendering doubly absurd, the cold hard stabs of male ‘bantz’.
The chilling movement, the director very much alert to the structural symphonic quality of McNair’s text, when the cast articulate the views of young schoolkids is particularly shocking. The actors’ sly transition to squirming, giggling children talking differences augurs ill for the future. It is a very strong scene, sad to its core but a telling signifier of a nurtured dichotomy.
‘Locker Room Talk’, castigates political correctness, feminism, objectification, gender specifics and replaces the discourse with a deadening cretinism, a puerile and debased cul-de-sac of male loneliness and despair. Men would rather commit suicide than confront this absence, that is, in essence, the tragedy McNair and O’Loughlin coax from the research material. The fact that they manage to achieve this transformative resonance adds to the notion of the ‘…walking irony of man’. This is an incredible achievement, urgent and unmissable, an oddly winning hour.*****
Locker Room Talk challenges and calls in what it has shown to be an accepted norm. It is an inspiration, a necessity and a movement. It is a must see piece and has a life of its own