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Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

The very model of a man

12 February 2020

Pep talks from alpha males and drills with the coach are all part of the show in Team of the Decades, as Robert Housley finds out.

Review: Will Dickie, Team of the Decades ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 11 February 2020 ·
Review by Robert Housley ·

Being a man is a tricky proposition. And manifesting its multitude of nuances as an immersive, site-specific performance poses plenty of its own challenges.

This well-travelled piece from visiting UK artist Will Dickie begins in the foyer of The Blue Room Theatre. Coach (Lawrence Murphy) greets each one of the strictly 10-member “team” (audience) before leading them through the back streets of Northbridge to an unannounced destination. About 15 minutes later, and after several mildly amusing exchanges with “the team”, the public and the traffic, we arrive at a small park opposite the Brisbane Hotel.

Lying in wait in the searing early evening sun is the ultimate – though somewhat incongruous – man (Dickie): a strapping sportsman in full American gridiron regalia, helmet and all. Why not a more culturally appropriate specimen? Because Team of the Decades is an autobiographical work infused with inspiration and literal commentary from several men who have had a major influence on Dickie’s life. Among these role models are his father, his teachers and a high school rugby coach.

Piecing together these disparate male voices and putting them into the context of the artist’s formative years is made possible using dated technology. When Gridiron Man directly engages with “the team” – as he does for much of the hour-long show – he has with him a small, portable cassette player. Recordings from Dickie’s male influencers are played throughout, interspersed with stereotypical team talk from the San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers’ material is pure alpha. Comments from the role models are revelatory and, at times, profound. “I can get a bit nasty when I drink too much,” says one. Another suggests that “to be a real man is to accept your weaknesses, and to experience real love is to accept weaknesses in others”.

Dickie’s almost entirely non-verbal performance is a sustained display of intense physicality and emotional expression, especially admirable given the gruelling heat on opening day. However, the gridiron metaphor jars somewhat – particularly the recorded component – despite the serendipity of a Perth native playing in last week’s Super Bowl for the same team.

Getting “the team” to work in unison by going on a journey, forming huddles, having simple roles and doing (easy) drills certainly added to the experience. Murphy epitomised the supportive male coach, much like those found encouraging children to participate the world over, win or lose.

You can be part of the Team of the Decades until 15 February 2020.

Pictured top: Gridiron Man Will Dickie and one of his “teams” in ‘Team of the Decades’. Photo: Jermone Whittington

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Author —
Robert Housley

Robert Housley returns to arts journalism following a 20-year hiatus managing performing arts venues. He was the last arts editor of Perth’s Daily News and has worked as a journalist in London, Cape Town and Amsterdam. Robert’s favourite item of playground equipment is the swing and its enduring challenge: how high can you go?

Past Articles

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