So as you may have seen, I am making a new show. This show is called How To Be A Man. I’m being supported by The Oval House in London. Initially the idea came from a response to a commission by The Oval House and Pink Fringe, although the elements have been floating around for a while.
The theme of the show is in the title, How to be a man. The concept was first suggested to me by my friend and sometimes collaborator, Josh Coates. He suggested that I make a show based on the mid 20th Century books that told boys how to be boys. How they should play, what skills they should learn etc. The theme changed in response to the commission. What I’m interested in now is what it means to be a man. More on that later.
The form of the show is that I am one performer, from an original cast of five. A fictional show was made and ready to tour, but then for various reasons the other four performers quit, leaving the one performer to try and perform all five parts. I first had this idea after finishing my undergraduate at Lancaster Uni. I made a show in my third year that had a cast of six. I knew that I would be making a show with one of these six and so I started to think about how two people could perform a show that was made for six. Ever since then, every show that I have worked on I have wondered how I could remake the show, keeping it more or less intact but with a reduced cast.
The Question of Being a Man
Essentially, in trying to create a set of rules for being a man, the idea is to define masculinity and being a man. But why do I want to do that?
I think the core reason is because I’d like to know. I don’t think I believe in such a thing as a man. I know there are physical differences between Men and Women, but I can’t figure out any other real differences.
My mind has gone blank, over the last couple of weeks I have been considering writing this post and I have thought of so many reasons for making a show about how to be a man. Now that I am sat here at my desk writing this, I can’t think of them.
Basically I want to make a show about this because I don’t believe there is an answer to the question. I don’t think I can, or want to, come up with a definition of what a man is and how to be a man. I think in essence what I want to do is make a show that creates a dialogue, I want the audience to consider their conceived ideas of masculinity, and I want them to question those ideas, and I want them to question each others ideas.
There is, apparently, at present a crisis of masculinity. Men don’t know how to be men anymore because society is gradually coming to accept that men and women are equal. I find this baffling, maybe because I have been raised to accept that men and women are equal. I don’t want to prove myself as a man, this is not to say I don’t want to prove myself, and I do identify myself as a man. But the question of what a man is and how to be one intrigues me, I want to delve into it and see if I can change my own mind, if I can come up with some other definition of being a man aside from simply thinking I am. I want to see what other people view as being a man. I want to apply their rules to myself to see if it changes my view or who I am.
I want to make a show about how to be a man because I want to see if I can find an answer to what I see as an unanswerable question and I want to challenge other people thoughts on manliness and masculinity.
The Challenge of Being Five Men
This is a much simpler one. Why do I want to make a show in which I am one performer taking on the roles of five? Because I love failure. I was taught by two lecturers, separately, that the most captivating thing you can see on stage is fragility. There is nothing so fragile, that I can think of, as seeing someone trying to do the impossible, knowing that it is impossible and still trying. I think there is something beautiful about the notion.
A futile act is pointless. But doing something pointless isn’t always futile, or even pointless. It’s fascinating, and if something is fascinating then it is worth doing. So like I said, this answer was much simpler, possibly because it is something I acknowledged I was interested in a while ago.
A Further Thought, Maybe a Conclusion
Today, as I was filling in an application for funding to support the show, I was thinking about why I’m making it and I realised that there is a connection between the theme and the form that is deeper than I at first believed. First of all, both revolve around failure. Trying to answer a question that either has no answer or doesn’t really exist at all is an act of futility, the only result is failure. Trying to be five people when I am clearly only one person is also an invitation to failure. But there is something deeper than that, I can’t quite put my finger on it now. I knew what it was whilst I made myself a cup of coffee half an hour ago, but now it has slipped out of my grasp. Frustrating. I’m hoping that if I keep typing it will come back to me. It may be something to do with the fact that masculinity, to me, is an fictional invention of society, and that the chorus of men who created the fictional show are themselves, a fictional society. I’m not sure if that is it, but it feels close. Hmmmmm.
This post is now quite long, and I am getting hungry so I’m going to leave it for now. But as I carry on planning and researching for this work, I will no doubt share my thoughts and feelings with you in the form of blog posts. If I can remember them.