The Viagra Monologues – Secret men’s business. (Theatre Review)

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The Viagra Monologues

Off the Avenue Productions and Blood Moon Theatre

16 June – 2 July You can grab your tickets here

Why is it so difficult to talk about male sexuality properly? Contrary to the popular idea that feminism attacks male sexuality, perhaps it is the discipline most interested in an honest examination of male sexuality – including psychology and psychoanalysis. It can also be argued (and regularly has by many philosophers) that one of the best ways to never talk about a subject is to talk about it in the wrong way constantly, and human sexuality must be the subject about which that rule most often applies. A psychoanalyst friend of mine once told me people lie more about sex and money than anything else in our culture, a fact worth remembering in social interaction. When it comes to female and male sexuality we’ve learnt a great deal about female sexuality in the last sixty years, but again, the most interesting aspects of male sexuality have come from the margins – from feminism, LGBT culture and social theory. When the hetro-identified male speaks about his sexuality it is still shrouded in debunked mythologies, and it is remains that only intellectually or creatively secure men are comfortable with the progressive discoveries that are debunking those myths. Progressive males often claim they feel easier discussing sex honestly with intelligent females than any male, and this above all else should reveal how feminism is no threat to the complex, thinking male searching for his place in our equally complex society. Feminism only poses a threat to men who want to remain ignorant, scared of the biological discoveries surrounding male sexuality, the vulnerability that comes with self reflection and the strength that comes with independent self awareness. Male sexual mythologies are heavily connected to a lack of independent thinking and personal responsibility and it is men who want to continue to be carried through life who insist on including myths like blaming women for rape, pregnancy and the fury of their internal civil war.

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And so with this in mind we turn to The Viagra Monologues currently showing at Blood Moon Theatre at World bar in the Cross. The Viagra Monologues pits itself against The Vagina Monologues by using the same format and many of the same premises for the small monologues but what is different here is the gentle main stream feminist approach taken by The Viagra Monologues. There is no real confrontation with the problems of male sexual perception choosing instead to take a softly softly approach to the issue, that while very touching and warm, lacks the power punch of the original. Highlights of the show are when it does take a step in this direction, such as a poignant monologue about a young man killed outside a brothel on the eve of battle, whose family is informed he died in the war and the beautifully written monologue of an older man struggling to speak about the testicular cancer that took his drinking buddy. For the most part however, The Viagra Monologues assumes its audience is ignorant of male sexual sensitivities and that issues such as rape culture are imposed on men from without instead of fostered from within. A few monologues addressing this in shocking ways would have been useful, but how this might be written without crying feminist I can’t imagine. However what writer Geraldine Brophy has come up with here is the genuine feminist impression of male sexuality that while being close to the honest feelings of many males, seems to fall a little short of addressing what it is to be a sexually active male in our society. The monologues are respectful and interesting and try to touch on the depth of the male experience, but while The Vagina Monologues shocked with the questions it raised, The Viagra Monologues leave us feeling men still need to be treated gently and protected from themselves. It serves to reinforce Brophy’s original point, that there is something potent missing from the conversation about male sexuality but all her good intentions with the Viagra Monologues serve more to reinforce that point than offer a solution. The best approach to the show then is director Samuel Lucas Alen’s point that the play asks men what they can do to be their best selves, and this approach sees The Viagra Monologues fully realized.

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However, that is not to say there isn’t a great deal to enjoy with The Viagra Monologues, most of which are the delightful performances in the intimate setting of The Blood Moon theatre. A locker room set by Emily Sigglekow and Bella Sigglekow gives the impression of trespassing on forbidden secrets. The three central performances by Tom Matthews, John Polyneux and Meynard Penalosa are stella with each actor stretching themselves into roles that often go against the stereotype of their physical presence which is a great pleasure to watch. Each monologue is a strong performance and never stops short of deep engagement with the audience. Samuel Lucas Allen keeps movement high, introducing each monologue by name from one of the other cast members, and prioritizing the sense of connection between the audience and each story teller is keeps the audience associating each narrative with personal experience. If there is one thing to state over and over about Off The Avenue’s production is the tenderness and warmth with which the male subject is handled. In a world where men are so often given the rough and tough image, it’s a real pleasure to be able to listen with an open heart.

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