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Review: Man Standing

Written by ExTS Reviewer Pippa Meaker

On attending this performance, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As part of the Come As You Are Festival it’s theme was made clear – how is the ‘male’ portrayed in the modern world and how does this affect those consuming the various films, adverts, television and social media that are so much part of our popular culture? How James (and we are only to know him by his first name) will do this is not so definitive however we are promised ‘questionable dancing and a lip sync’. And of course, no-one will have missed the warning about male nudity…

Entering the venue James is sat quietly next to his laptop and it feels like you are attending a course or a lecture. The first words we hear are James’ recorded voice rather than the man himself and throughout the show there is a mix of recorded voice, music, and displayed on the laptop, a variety of videos and images, all portraying the male body in its ‘perfect’ form. James opens with a joke ‘What do men and mascara have in common? They both run at the first sign of emotion.’ Discussing attitudes to males who display emotion James claims to have either ‘forgotten how to cry’ or to have been bullied out of it. His experiences as a boy not remotely interested in either playing or watching sport are recognisable and endearing. When playing some recorded football coverage, we hear the commentator describe a free kick as having ‘more curves than Jessica Rabbit on steroids’ which nicely serves both as an example of a typical ‘male’ comment but also nods to the idea of the perfect ‘female’ form.

Other anxieties are discussed in a humorous and self-deprecating manner. The feeling of inadequacy when encountering a perfect gym body in the changing room is one many can relate to and inevitably there is a mention of penis size and shape and the accompanying worries and concerns. The description of James’ penis or ‘totem of mandom’ occasionally resembling ‘a feeble mouse blinking into the sunlight’ gets a particular laugh - mostly from the females in the audience.

The dancing is indeed questionable and doesn’t work so well. In short bursts maybe, but the length of each dance routine lost the audience a little and broke the flow. We are pleased to hear that at the age of 32 James has accepted his body as an ‘old good friend of mine’ and it would definitely seem to be the case as he bravely follows through on the promise of male nudity. The ending was a little awkward however with us all shuffling away from what had been quite an intimate experience. Overall the show raised some good points, the observations and experiences were easy to relate to and some laughs were had. It did have the feeling of a work in progress however, just like James’ gym body.

Man Standing is part of the Come As You Are festival at Exeter Phoenix– some strong language, contains ‘male’ nudity/16+/60 mins no interval.


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