Jock – Golden Goose Theatre, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer: Charlie Howard

Director: Ramiro Batista

A play about toxic masculinity may not be the most original idea for a one-man show, but Charlie Howard’s quiet piece is not so much about a toxic man but rather the toll drinking has on the body. Howard’s character is a decent human being but he’s caught up in a world where excessive drinking is seen as a badge of honour.

Surprisingly, the world Howard’s posh rugby boy inhabits is the frat scene in a British university and the hazing that goes on within it. He is a new recruit in a boys-only club that values necking down pints above all else, even girls. Only at the end of their nights, after 11pm, are the boys allowed to talk to girls in an effort to raise their ‘body count’ numbers.

The club gives Howard’s character a sense of belonging. He’s praised for his prowess in drinking everyone under the table. And he’s applauded for his sexual conquests, even though he bends the truth a little, forgetting to mention the premature ejaculation. Being celebrated by his friends makes him feel good. He’s one of the boys. He belongs.

Bravely, for a show about men, the climax of the show is muted. There are no fireworks, no fights. The turning point for Howard’s character is a strange, delicate one. It fits nicely into the whole aesthetic of the play where our hero’s manner is gentle and thoughtful. However, there are times when Jock would benefit from a sound design, perhaps underscoring the quiet revelation that comes towards the end.

Dressed in an untucked blue shirt, rugby tie, chinos, purple socks and boat shoes, Howard’s student wouldn’t be out of place in Chelsea: he looks a little lost in a bar, simply designed with dirties littering the surface, across the river in South London. But he feels that he never fits in unless he drinks and gets involved with silly initiation ceremonies.

While Howard mainly plays the one character, there could be more differentiation in the portrayal of his friends. Only the Neanderthal ‘Ugly Man’ is instantly recognisable by the way he moves, knuckles to the floor. The rest of his mates blend into one, making the end a little more confusing than it needs to be.

With a few charming audience participation sections, Howard’s control of his play is pitched perfectly. With the subject of toxic masculinity being widely covered – even the Globe is tackling the issue now – it’s refreshing that Howard has something new to say.

Runs until 22 June 2024

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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