4 Minutes 12 Seconds – The theatrics of machismo. (Theatre Review)

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4 minutes 12 seconds

Outhouse Theatre Company with Red Line Productions

Old Fitz Theatre, 13 Sep – 8 Oct.

You can grab your tickets here.

Images: Rupert Reid.

Rape culture isn’t a female problem, it isn’t a male problem, it’s a societal problem. Perpetuated by mythologies that always come back to male virility there is enough research for us to stop claiming rape has anything to do with sex and realise that it is about power and perpetuated by predators. That we are so reluctant to hear facts and instead cling to mythologies has a lot to do with the way men are perceived and the false natures we insist men live up to. Just as females have to press, squeeze, diet, pluck, shave, dye and alter through medical procedures their bodies in order to become ‘natural’ men are forced (usually via the threat of becoming effeminised or gay) into acting out the predilections and fetishes of masculinity that are antithetical to their natures and or survival instincts.

The language of rape and being unwilling to do anything about it when we are confronted by it, plays an integral part in this problem. Rape exists to feed the male fantasy that there is a dangerous weapon between his legs. Of what value is a penis if it doesn’t make you feel more powerful and scare women? However, it is essential for the maintenance of this fantasy to make conviction of the crime difficult to the point of impossible. The implication that rape is an act born of impulse is a myth. Criminology reports repeatedly find that rape is planned, and that the perpetrators know to pursue a ‘promiscuous’ girl they have managed to get alone. Once the deed is done they can claim initial consent and that she changed her mind in the morning, when in fact he is the one changing his story. By insisting on impossible to obtain evidence, rather than searching for motive or intent, the law, as set up by men, fosters and supports rape culture. Fathers like Dan Turner, and David in 4 Minutes 12 Seconds become proud of their sons who appear to harness the elusive power of machismo believing the boys fell prey to their own impossible-to-stop masculinity. This can’t be held to account, for how else do you know you are a man?

Rape, as an impossible to properly define crime must exist for men to hold it over women, but it must be almost impossible to convict the poor idiot drunk on his own cool-aide.

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It is this topic that writer James Fritz and director Craig Baldwin handle with great emotional dexterity and intellectual panache in 4 Minutes 12 Seconds. Together the two men have made an enormous success of tacking this important issue without the PC overtones that force an anemic quality to many efforts to speak with lucidity on this subject. It is very gratifying to see men take up the conversation and make a great success of the examination they present. A huge shout out goes to Red Line Productions and their erudite line up for 2016 that has constantly juxtaposed hyper-hysterical masculinity with the clear sharp ring of the female perspective forcing each of us into questioning each presentation in a broader context than the show itself.

Jeremy Waters plays David, and Danielle King is Di, parents of Jack who is in trouble. The kind of trouble that will make him a legend. However, he teeters on the precipice of a transformation in social attitudes. A no man’s land exists in the battle for masculinity, a battle between the new and the old man; the man defined by his amour proper and woman’s lack of it, and the man willing to embrace the new dawn and find his masculinity in his individual nature.

Causal trajectories are drawn by James Fritz between parental attitudes, socio-economic standing and machismo. The intent, successfully executed, is to draw the audience’s attention away from the girl at the centre of the story (expect to define her as damaged for life) and focus on the perpetrator. Interestingly, however, Fritz further skews this examination by leaving Jack out of the play all together and keeping the spotlight on family secrets that are slow revealed as Di works out who she really lives with.

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It was Germaine Greer who said women have no idea how much men hate them, and although women are getting more educated on this subject via internet chat, it is still the great shock of rape to discover you live in a war zone. This shock is perfectly executed by Kate Cheel as Cara, a very young girl who has had the truth of the world impressed upon her in a terrible way. Cheel is tragically venomous in her portrayal of Cara living under the burden of a wisdom about wickedness that will impact her forever.

All the performances are fine here, with Jeremy Waters typically superb as David. 2016 has seen him make a name for himself in these predatory masculine roles, but he brings such disarming depth to his portrayals of masculine self-deception that character dissection and examination become all the more possible. As Hugh O’Connor’s excellent set design reveals, everything in 4 Minutes 12 Seconds is about reflection and the other as our mirror. Di reflected in Cara, Cara reflecting Jack, Jack reflecting his friend Nick, David reflecting Jack, Nick reflecting Cara, David reflecting Di. This circular representation comes across in the multiple searches for blame as the parents scramble for a cause that will both pacify those seeking justice and keep their son safe. In all this Felix Johnson plays Nick, Jacks friend and the representation of the new man, the man who chooses ‘no’ rather than use women to enhance his feeble sense of self.

James Fritz and Craig Baldwin have brought a truly great project to the Old Fitz Stage in yet another wonderful production in the 2016 year. 4 Minutes 12 Seconds is a must see.

Highly recommended

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