Writer: Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Venue: High Street Exhibition Gallery, Ipswich
Sometimes less is more. A sustaining snack more beneficial than a full blow buffet. It’s certainly the case with Nigel and Lousie’s This Is What Men Do.
The set looks stunning, a recreation of da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Various readers (local performers) slowly fill the 13 chairs during the performance, reciting tales of various atrocities and torture carried out by Man. It is men in particular, not mankind, who are singled out as the aggressors, the women slowly withdrawing to the audience as the men are left at the table.
The stories shared are truly horrific. Tales of rape, execution and mutilation alongside heinous war crimes. No excuses are made, nor should there be, but these historical vignettes without a link, or theme (apart from man’s inhumanity to man) make for a fractured dramatic narrative.
The connection with the Last Supper is tenuous at best. Is there a Judas element at play? Are men betraying the world? What is the link between the performers? Why those excerpts?
All those questions, and many more, remain unanswered, and while it is always good to challenge the audience, having your structure and message so impenetrable just alienates the viewer and loses the power any of your historical sources have.
By the time a piano plays as a long list of historical war dead is projected on the wall and a child enters to blinding light to proclaim a wish for a peaceful future, the piece has descended into cliché.
The play may be based on historical research, but without some texture and shade, it becomes weak and overlong.
While one can appreciate the bravery of trying something new, in the case of This Is What Men Dothough, the lasting impression is a misandrist tirade that leaves the audience perplexed and bored.
Reviewed on 4 June 2016| Image: Contributed