New Diorama Theatre – until 1 December 2018
The PappyShow’s Boys is introduced as a ‘celebration of manhood’ which is then swiftly followed by a fight. In hindsight, it isn’t ironic, rather it’s getting a misconception or common viewpoint out of the way.
There will be scuffles periodically throughout the hour-long show but while there is much that is celebratory – you will leave with a smile on your face – the subhead should be ‘it’s not all toxic masculinity’. It is refreshing to have gender stereotypes smashed, to see young men displaying joy, tenderness and myriad other emotions.
Divided into a series of skillfully performed and choreographed sketches themed under headings such as discipline, competitive and endurance, the nine performers use a mixture of dialogue, dance, movement pieces and even games to explore the broader, complex facets of male personalities.
You get a strong sense of camaraderie, team spirit and support together with tinges of isolation; a celebration of similarity and individuality alongside frustration, fear and loneliness. Anger surfaces occasionally born out of deeper, hidden emotions that are perhaps unable to be otherwise expressed.
A game called ‘Map of the World’ demonstrates pride in heritage, the performers are from communities and families across the world, just occasionally there is a sense of not having roots. Body image, sexuality and a hint of femininity are also explored but there is little female context which makes it all the more interesting.
In one scene a performer is asked to give the three physical traits in themselves they like best.
Brilliantly performed so the audience is two (wrong) steps ahead it is one of the rare references to women, forearms having been chosen because of a compliment.
Otherwise, there is little talk of the opposite sex or sexual encounters which, like the opening, feels calculated to strip away a common misconception.
Mothers and grandmothers are occasionally mentioned and almost always with fondness or admiration.
It is a play of joy and silliness that is also multi-layered, subtle, touching and enlightening. It doesn’t so much celebrate manhood as celebrate a side to manhood that is often overlooked.
I’m giving it five stars and you can see it at the New Diorama until Dec 1.