Locker Room Talk @ Traverse Theatre

Writer: Gary McNair

Director: Orla O’Loughlin

Post Show facilitator: Dr Holly Davis

There are few things more powerful than a word, spoken or otherwise. The championed word shouted on the streets and in the press can have the widest impact both for resistance and oppression. The most dangerous word is the one they didn’t want you to hear. The words said about women which would never be uttered to women – until now.

Associate artist to the Traverse Theatre, Gary McNair offers insight to both the importance of outspoken words and the toxicity of those unheard. The concept is simple, it’s stretching potential is vast. To record around fifty men, from various classes, races and ages about one topic: women. Or more importantly, the sort of ‘laddish’ banter conducted when women aren’t present. One year ago, we reviewed the same show, in the same venture with different women reciting the same words spoken by the same men. Nothing has changed, for good reason.

We open with the beaming orange-faced voice of self-conceited, misogynistic and *ahem* leader of honest viewpoints – Donald Trump. Snippets of his now infamous interviews, off-the-record responses and campaign proclamations are echoed into the darkness as cast Maureen Carr, Jamie Marie Leary, Gabriel Quigley and Nicola Roy enter the stage. We hear the toxic masculinity, anti-feminist statements and goading’s of these men read in real-time by these women.

All of our readers add an element which lacked slightly from the previous year. There’s an ounce more of delivery in conveying the men. Not as characters but as people. Accents, physical movements and the odd wink or nudge. The script is already believable, but this adds a sense of weight to the production. Voices we would hear in the pub, at the bus stop or in the doctors’ surgery.

There’s humour to be had, though this is more out of familiarity than genuine laughs. We chuckle as we need an outlet at the deplorable speech on offer. Some of the audience will find the script disheartening. Others, shocked. Most worrying are the ones who are ambivalent or complacent.

Where all matters of recordings or interviews are concerned there is human error. The interviewees range from honest, deflecting and to entirely innocent in the case of the children. At points, we can feel where men are lying to McNair or bending the extent of their own personal misogyny to push themselves out of the light. Though, this also showcases the reach of patriarchy – that complacency is its tool, as people who recognise it themselves can’t or won’t confront it.

What is implored is to stay for the post-show discussion. Usually a phrase many dread in relation to theatrical productions. Led by Dr Holly Davis, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow this part is the kind of outlet which is needed. Encouraged to open up dialogue, we are presented with no filter of a topic, no judgement and invited to publicise the need for this sort of discussion.

I said in the previous year’s review that one day, productions like Locker Room Talk won’t be required. A year on they still are, even more so. Locker Room Talk serves as an insight into the often-unseen locker room mentality. This production serves to uncover a truth that, whilst many will still ignore – that at some point this talk will become action. The action of sharing, calling-out or calling-in abusive behaviour and driving writers, performers and the public to help drain the poison under the surface.

Image Contribution: David Monteith Hodge

Review published for The Reviews Hub


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