Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Certified Male

I'm in Perth at the moment, missing "What A Man's Gotta Do" at the Q tonight and pretty cranky about it, too, having read the reviews and worked out it won't be showing anywhere nearer than Griffith for the rest of the tour.

Fortunately, or so I thought, on the night I arrived Perth was boasting the last performance of another Manly comedy, Certified Male, and there was a single seat remaining in the middle of Row G of the old Regal Theatre in Subiaco, a venue for which I have a residual fondness based on my love of art deco and a happy memory of seeing Lano & Woodley's The Island there quite some years ago.

As it happens, I nearly passed on this because I had seen the ads for it coming to Canberra - I may even have entered a competition for tickets - but on having another look, the Canberra tour seems to have completely disappeared from the Canberra Theatre website, and everywhere else, too. Anyone know what the story is there?

So, I took myself off to the Regal, and as it turns out, men are hilarious!

Whereas women, apparently, are contemptible, grasping, parasitic soul-destroying harridans, who use their cup-size to hypnotise men and then ruin their lives by breeding, refusing to work for a living*, and demanding their men put in 65 hour weeks to keep them in the style to which they've become accustomed.

I'm not sure why this piece has garnered the rave reviews it has; it's not much more than Menopause the Musical for blokes (or perhaps Breast Wishes, as the songs are originals), and that's not a compliment. The inadequate wisp of plot that runs through the series of sketches revolves around four executives who spend a weekend at a Peruvian resort on the pretext of a corporate brainstorming exercise. Of course, at the end all come away with changed lives, as so often happens after 48 hours of sucking down beer on a beach and bitching about women. (Women they chose, let's not forget. And who apparently reproduce parthenogenically, out of spite).

The cast, it must be said, is very good, although Glyn Nicholas, as patriarch Jared, seemed strangely disengaged, and stumbled over his lines on a few occasions. Still, his physical comedy was impeccable as always, and even seemed to have become something of an in-joke for the rest of the cast, who were clearly competing for the title of next-best mime as he perched on non-existent bar stools or grappled with fictional fishing rods. Mike McLeish, best known as Keating! , was top of his game as the harried and henpecked Alex. Canberra boy made good, David "Frosty" Callan, was easily funniest of the night as crass, angry and thrice-married Geoff, and Cameron Knight, to my surprise and delight, turned out to be much more than just a pretty face, as schmick and cynical Josh (lots more fourth-wall humour).

It is a tribute to the talent of these perfomers that they managed to wring as many laughs as they did out of this cliched, obvious, mean-spirited and misogynistic script. It's also a piece that doesn't seem to know exactly what to do with itself.  There are perhaps six songs, not making it a revue; none of them really advance the plot, not making it a musical. The songs themselves are utterly unmemorable. 

Possibly the weirdest thing, though, is that between scenes, presumably in an effort to thread them together more effectively (fail!), Nicholas comes out and tells the audience stories about the Raft of the Medusa. Except instead of dying horribly, committing suicide, or slaughtering and eating each other, in this version the men form committees or some such. It's misguided and bizarre and callous, and eventually just peters out without ever making a point. For those unfamiliar with the raft of the Medusa (there was, in fact, one woman aboard it, conveniently forgotten here), it is one of those tragic episodes of human horror and degradation that ranks to my mind with the Holocaust and Rwandan massacre, in that it will always be Too Soon.  Or, if you subscribe to the philosophy that there's no such thing, any jokes about it need to be pretty bloody damn funny (yes, even 200 years later, or you have no soul.)  These aren't.

The ending is trite and thoroughly telegraphed; although at least the unseen children of these troglodytes have progressed from being devices women use to ruin men's lives to being devices women use to punish men who leave them. Yay!  Perhaps I've answered my own question about why the Canberra dates seem to have been pulled.

Wish I'd got to Andrew Horobin at the Q.  

* because looking after kids and keeping house is just a latte-swilling book-clubbing doddle, as any fule kno. 

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