Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


I had avoided previous versions of “Muscle” from Shock ‘n’ Awe Performance Co. Ltd, since I’d assumed from the publicity materials, suggesting that it was an exploration of the nature of manhood, that it would be something of a whinge about “masculinity in crisis”. When I finally caught up with it, at Chapter Arts Centre, in its third, Edinburgh-bound incarnation, I was delighted to discover that I was mistaken. Yes, it does involve men talking about their feelings, but since they are largely South Wales men, the cringe factor is minimal. Derived from interviews, and shaped into an engagingly physical performance piece by playwright Greg Cullen and choreographer Phil Williams, it presents stories from life as told by a variety of men (old, young, black, white, gay, straight), flawlessly played by Hugh Thomas, Sule Rimi, Dean Rehman, Lee Mengo and newcomer Lewis Reeves. It is structured as a selection of monologues, playlets, mimes, songs, shaggy dog stories, and narrative dance interludes (all the more resonant for being performed by non-dancers); deftly framed by Angharad Matthews’ deceptively stage simple design, enhanced by the music of Benjamin Talbott, and confronting universal human complexities and contradictions in a dramatically satisfying manner. Towards the end, one long tale of tragic family dysfunction threatens to over-balance things, but the authors cleverly pull back from the brink, leading us towards a celebratory climax. It’s not often that one emerges from the theatre feeling positive about oneself, but “Muscle” did the trick for me.

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