Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

Beware the gimmick

20 January 2019

Fringe World review: The Royal Court, Izzy McDonald and Gavin Roach, Manwatching ·
State Theatre Centre of WA as part of the Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights, 18 January ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

So here we have the latest iteration of the Soleimanpour School (after Nassim Soleimanpour, the Iranian playwright whose White Rabbit, Red Rabbit was among the first of the species); plays specifically written to be performed by people – professional performers or amateurs – who have never seen the script they will read to an audience.

Manwatching has another progenitor, Eve Ensler’s epochal The Vagina Monologues, which has done great things, and great box office, since the mid-nineties.

With bloodlines like that, it should be impossible for it to fail.

The play, written by an anonymous woman, is about “heterosexual female desire”, though by-and-large that translates to female masturbatory fantasy. Its shtick is that it’s read by a man.

Now you can argue that this gender reversal emphasises “Anonymous’s” points about male perceptions of women. Fair enough.

My suspicion, though, is that it’s more in response to the flaw in the whole Soleimanpour School; it’s essentially a gimmick, and the problem with gimmicks is that you can’t keep repeating them – you can’t throw the same pitch too many times.

So you have to find ways to gimmick the gimmick, and Manwatching is one of them.

Tonight’s performer was the skilful and wily actor Paul Grabovac, and he waded into the long monologue with all his talents on show. It was fun delving into the etymology of genitalia, and, for a time, the qualities in men that make them wankworthy. Before long, however, you realised you weren’t hearing anything you hadn’t heard before, and you were hearing it rehashed too often.

Grabovac’s performance wilted under the weight of it all, and eventually you could tell he was wondering how many pages of script were left to go.

So was I.

Manwatching plays the State Theatre Centre of WA until January 26.

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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