Locker Room Talk – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Writer: Gary McNair

Director: Orla O’Loughlin

Reviewer: Dominic Corr

Words have magnificent power. Some of us try to make careers from them, quite often though many of us use them to wound. Dusting off the classic; “the pen is mightier than the sword”, these words are the force behind the pen. With titular inspiration by Donald Trump and now following the #MeToo movement, the timing of Locker Room Talk’s return to the Traverse is growing more and more prevalent.

Four seats, four microphones, four recordings, but most importantly four women. This is all that is required to translate the words of men from various classes, generations, nationalities and their attitudes towards women. The choice of using four talented women is inspiring, bringing a completely different angle. The effect, if conducted by men, would be devoid of impact. Instead, the interpretations, accents and mannerisms of Rachael Spence, Blythe Duff, Caroline Deyga and Rehanna MacDonald sell the truth.

Conceptually Locker Room Talk is a vitally required piece of theatre. Its premise goes beyond holding the mirror to the room and directly positions us within private conversations. For within these sessions of ‘banter’ the true darkness is unearthed. Misogyny, aggressive or subtle, is not always propagated directly. Often, it slops out and festers behind closed doors, but what’s the harm in it being private, right? This is the real question which is poised. For with the issue of toxic masculinity, who really benefits? No one is the outcome.

As we often find humour is both the sharpest sword and the strongest shield. Utilised triumphantly it is multi-faceted in its use. It lowers the tone, divulges the crudeness, offers jovialness but most strikingly denotes the desensitised nature. McNair’s incentive isn’t to point out this is happening, we all know it is, instead he is forcing open the barrier surrounding this. As our speakers recite the words of these men, often we don’t laugh out of humour, we laugh out of familiarity.

Entirely down to personal experience, one may find Locker Room Talk feels heavily censored. Not in the slightest by its creators, no, but by the men in question who have been interviewed. Knowing that they are being taped, some openly discussing this fact, dilutes a lot of the vileness. Despite its connotations with brutish force, masculinity is tactically clever. It isn’t simply aggressive but controlling. Many woman and men do not speak out for fear of a higher authority, ‘weakness’ or dismissiveness, all orchestrated by said masculinity. Whilst the intent is still present, when asked how shocked we are, most of the audience responds with indifference. As tragically, the words used tonight are not the foulest some of us have experienced. This is more a critique of McNair’s research methods as opposed to faults with the production.

This evenings post-discussion is chaired by Dr Holly Davis, who delivers a warmth and open environment. What is discussed here is the real crux of the matter, no filter, honest and (ideally) with no judgement. The audience is encouraged to share ideas, questions both about the performance and the subjects raised.

Yes, it can be uncomfortable, gut-wrenching, difficult to watch but to really tackle these issues they must be (pardon the pun) grabbed by the balls. What McNair accomplishes by mere conception is allowing the door of toxic masculinity to be pried open further, anything which enables this should be shared, shouted and encouraged.

Runs until 7 April 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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