November Preview – Manpower

We’ve seen some thought provoking theatre in Manchester on the changing roles and challenges for men, including RashDash’s Two Man Show and Gecko’s Institute to name but the two most recent. Coming to the Lowry on 10 November, Manpower is a new performance from award-winning theatre makers Two Destination Language (Alister Lownie and Katherina Radeva) which looks at the changing roles for men that contributed to recent cries of ‘we want our country back’.

Set over the forty years from Britain’s entry into the EU to the recent Brexit vote, and backed by music from the period played on decks on stage, this is a contemporary theatre piece, but with a strong premise.

‘Normally our work is sparse,’ says Kat. ‘This is full of words, music and visuals. The stage is filled with wood, proper wood, the kind you’d get from a tree surgeon. We want to play on the idea of gender associations with both wilderness and the domestic environment.’

‘We build a shed on stage,’ adds Alister. ‘Whilst it’s easy to look for identity in big political agendas, we think it’s important to talk about the little things that make you, you. The right song, a piece of DIY, choosing the right bolt for the job. The everyday pleasures do exist. The erosion of patriarchy goes alongside a world where men no longer have to bring home the bacon. There’s a freedom to be found in this.’

‘It’s a big topic,’ says Kat, ‘but this isn’t an all encompassing show. Manpower looks at the working man, especially those that aren’t working now. We want to understand exactly what is this nation they want back? What have we learnt from history, and is it a surprise that Brexit happened?’

Grayson Perry put it well in his new book The Descent of Man. ‘The ‘invisibility’ of the male gender and its dominant subjectivity make it seem to many men that all the problems are with this ‘other’, which they feel they do not belong to.’

‘What is this other? Otherness is implicit in the discussion of gender,’ says Alister. ‘One of the reasons we started being interested is that the binary view is outmoded, gender is now something with many more options. Although you identify as a male, you can have many different ways to be a man.’

Two Destination Language’s work explores questions of identity, belonging and culture. ‘Ultimately, we want people to enjoy watching the performance. We try to encompass both the traditional and the contemporary to hang the story on.’

Manpower is at the Lowry Studio, Salford Quays, on Thursday 10 November.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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