9 August 2019 / Paisley Stage, Napier / By Ian Thomas
Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park, London is the location. Our speaker is The Man. Hey Man! What are we like? is the unasked question. The Man weaves his answer through challenging parables, graphic metaphors, and imagined historical vignettes. The prancing joker cum jester, yellow faced, speaks many a true word.
To begin the audience, a full-house, is taken by the hand and gently teased with comedic commentary on obesity and poverty. A slurpee drink machine, spewing slurp in three sizes; “large, super size, and kidney transplant.” Meanwhile in the third world kids are starving. Couldn’t the poverty-striken chase the obese? The former need food, the latter exercise. “The Hungry Games.” Problems solved!
This is only a toe in the water. We are about to be taken much deeper into our world problems. Many mirrors are to be held up to our society and our values, and our lack of involvement. The savvy political commentary is wrapped in an aggressive yet anti-violence, dark humour. Then further wrapped in mime, in theatrics, and ultimately in yellow make-up and black rubber clothes.
Comedy and social commentary are the two sides to The Man’s performance. Both professionally polished. This jester is clearly no fool. The Man, is sharp enough to know how to cut us. Drawing laughter, rather than blood. He has a hundred truths with which to coax our agreement before he spins the table and unleashes a more truthful barb to elicit a cringe of discomfort, a sharp intake of breath, and then applause, and always laughter.
Subject matter is serious, but the best comedy comes from tackling heavy issues. We are led like the rats of Hamelin, unable – and unwilling – to resist the piper as his jaunty stage presence takes us to third world hunger, religion and religious-like obsessions onward through austerity via consumerism to hell. And Jesus. Bill Gates. Steve Jobs, the bitten apple. Who bit it, Eve? No, Steve (a tera-”byte”). The new religion is the web, the 2nd world, the place where the privileged flaunt their trappings and play war games. Earnestly signalling virtue and displeasure at inequity.
The show champions the notion of free speech while demonstrating how uncomfortable that reality can be. This is after all Speakers’ Corner. The street sign on the back wall, the only piece of set, tells us so. The show is woven together masterfully. Subjects intertwine and clever call-backs reinforce the notion of a consummate orator standing on a soapbox in the park.
The man behind The Man is erudite, and sophisticated. The comedy is visceral, bawdy, risque and cerebral. The show is a sublime work which alluringly balances laughs and jolting observational challenges. The audience seem vitalised as they leave. Chatting about what they’ve just seen. Thoroughly and wonderfully entertained and somewhat disturbed by The Man.
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