How to be a Man – Lancaster Residency

So last week was my residency with Live at LICA and the first week of making How to be a Man.

It was good.

That’s all.

No, obviously I will say a little more than that, but it was good…

The trip started with a detour to Yorkshire where I picked up Manfred, my male/female hybrid mannequin. Here he is on his travels…

The Journey of Manfred, from humble mannequin to Theatre star

 When it came to actually making material, I had some bits and pieces of script written and some ideas, but really it was a case of seeing how these could be staged and if it worked. The trickiest bit was actually recording onto the Dictaphones so that I could have a conversation with both of them at once, getting the timing right was difficult, but possible, eventually. I have to say that it made me feel a bit crazy, spending hours trying to organise a conversation with two other me’s, in a room, on my own. Luckily I was able to run over to Leo’s office to get a coffee every now and then.

Also to give myself breaks from these more technical and planned elements of the rehearsal I tried out other things that hadn’t been scripted yet. Silly things like waltzing with a mannequin, sword fighting with a mannequin and demonstrating the universal man hug with a mannequin (there are actually step by step instructions for how a man should hug another man – it’s weird and a bit scary that these exist).

During the week I had a bit of a slap-dash set because I am still work with Simone, the set designer to come up with a comprehensive set for this stage of the project. So I had a lot of stand in elements. I was also lacking a mannequin as the second one (named Leonard) was ordered to Lancaster but has only just arrived there this week.

At the end of the week I had made about 20 minutes of rough material. Rough in that it needs rewriting and more work, but in essence the material is there. I did a small showing to Leo and some other Lancaster based folk. What I showed them was only 15 minutes of the 20 that I had made because the other 5 minutes was still incredibly rough and needs a lot of work as it it quite complicated (it involves speaking in unison with two Dictaphones, really not easy, especially when it becomes obvious that for some bizarre reason the two Dictaphones don’t actually play at the same speed)

I have learnt quite a bit at the end of the week. For starters I have more of an idea of what the show is going to look and feel like. I’ve also learnt that for the dictaphones to be heard clearly they need to be turned down and mic’d up. I’ve learnt that the idea of the missing performers, although useful is not that essential for the show, as such the two ‘missing’ performers, played by the mannequins/dictaphones will become other versions of my voice/a voice for elements of my research. This makes the show more obviously about one man (me) trying to define what it is that makes a man and how to be one. The confusion that follows will hopefully show that such a diverse topic and open ended question doesn’t have just one answer, if it has one at all. Most importantly what I have learnt is that, with help, I can actually make a show out of this topic. It will not be comprehensive, or complete and it will never actually answer the question of how to be a man. But it can exist at least.

So now I have a lot of work to do. More research, more planning, more writing etc. It really is a lot to do, but hopefully it will work out… Guess I’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, here are some pictures from my week.

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Thanks for paying enough attention to get this far. Here’s a treat…


It’s a good word. Enjoy it.