Image courtesy of The Marlowe Theatre
A white square, set on the floor, surrounded by chairs. That’s the set of an impressive play which explores the journey of two school boys preparing to enter their first square go in order to face the social expectations of ‘manning up’. Max (Euan Bennet), trained by his friend Stevie (Laurie Scott), is set to prove his classmates wrong and defeat Danny Gauthrie, the most dreaded bully within the school. There is a particular focus on the perception of masculinity and, in particular, Max’s journey to achieve it.
Throughout Max’s journey we discover many of his insecurities, starting with his name. With great difficulty he reveals that his official name is actually Mark Brocklehurst, completed with a few complicated middle names. It is made clear to us that he has often been mocked for his name, and his father’s absence only further highlights his issues with the idea of masculinity.
Voice plays a huge part in the success of the exploration of Max’s fear of masculinity. The terror that Max faces in his future confrontation with Danny is represented by Laurie Scott switching from Max to Danny’s character by putting on a dark wrestling mask and lowering his voice in order to highlight Max’s terror at the thought of his confrontation with Danny. We see how society defines masculinity: a boy who is strong, proves his dominance through bullying other people, has a low voice, is not afraid of anything and benefits from girls’ attention.
Unfortunately for Max, he does not possess these qualities and now feels as though he has to face the challenge of ‘manning up’ or withstand eternal shame from his classmates. Interestingly, voice also played a part in the only unsuccessful part of the play because the strength of their Scottish accent and the speed of their speech sometimes prevented the audience from understanding the entirety of the play.
The costumes that the two wear are identical in style, yet differ in colour (one is blue, the other red), highlighting two opposing sides. The switching lights from red to blue also heighten the sensation of the performance, illustrating the imaginary spaces very well. The actors also engage with the audience and break the fourth wall, with one memorable scene being when Stevie asks for a member of the audience to arm wrestle with Max in order to lift his spirits and chances of winning.
Euan Bennet and Laurie Scott make it clear that these characters are boys trying to “man up” with their interesting movements throughout the play. However, the most intriguing part was the way the performance was directed, enabling the viewer to see the two actors perfectly no matter where they sat. By putting the two under a microscope, the audience are able to analyse them and truly understand the work that has been put in to creating a play which pays such attention to detail when it comes to exploring masculinity.