REVIEW: The Man Presents: Women
An acerbic feminist comedy
The show sold out on its first night, (and at the time of writing has 2 tickets left for the second and final night) partially due to the wide-reaching advertising campaign.
She show takes the format of “Cambridge’s finest” lady and non-binary comics exploring the women that men can’t write, and sticking it to their writer, “The Man”. My expectations were of the play to be a highly politicised takedown of sexist Hollywood writing, and although the performers managed to accomplish this they did so far more subtly than I initially expected.
The play opens with The Man (Will Dalrymple), discussing the “hardships” he feels as a male feminist. His rant includes pushing over a chair due to anger at the wage gap, and lines such as “I’m not trying to flirt with you; I’m trying to help you” which makes for an incredibly funny take on faux-feminist male attitudes.
The first of the female performances is The Black Widow (Louisa Keight), a deranged American ex-lover who tells the story of her revenge on her ex partner. Painting a picture of New York filled with so many puns at times I thought I was watching Airplane (“I avoided their stares, and took the elevator”) the sketch really sets the bar high in terms of laughs, and yet none of the sketches managed to disappoint.
Emmeline Downie was brilliant as Cathleen, who tells the story of her job as a receptionist at an Architectural firm – this was a well proportioned and very funny exaggeration of the stereotypical office worker. Perdi Higgs follows as “Brainbox” Perdi, who simultaneously creeps out and amuses with her overtly sexual descriptions of her relationships with literary classics.
The Bossy Woman or Big An (Ania Magliano-Wright) has a superb take on kids in a nursery, leading her rebellion against “Mrs Merri-bitch”. The bizarre but incredible line of “Need a pick me up? I’ve got Babybels, cheesestrings, Ketamine …” and many more kept the audience in near hysterics.
Girl-girl, also played by Louisa Keight, got arguably the most laughs of the evening, with an astounding portrayal of a failed superhero. Adorned with tea towel, bike helmet and green mask she jam-packed one liners into a short but hilarious sketch (I tried to write down some quotes but couldn’t due to laughter).
The Man interjected between most of the sketches, keeping the casual misogyny alive with lines such as “…three ugly women, I can use that word because my sister is ugly” and references to #notallmen.
The laughs didn’t stop as the play continued. Cecilia or The Uptown Girl (Millie Foy) told the heartbreak of a privileged tennis-playing, Chinese-style-ornamental-gazebo-owning girl. The Foreign Woman (Carine Valarche), The Expert (Jasmin Rees) and The Love Interest (Ellie Cole) all made use of sometimes dodgy accents and overstated stereotypes to great effect. Emma Plowright as the past-her-prime headmistress of a state grammar school delivered her witty verdict on the state of public-sector education. Finally Helena D’Omelette, played by Rhiannon Shaw, ended the play with a hilarious over the top version of the unpredictable/mad stereotype for female characters.
This play goes from strength to strength, using exaggeration and very well written humour to address an important topic in a funny and light-hearted way. The consistency of the quality and setup of the sketches almost implied a singular writer, but each performer wrote their own part which makes the combined effect of their performances even more impressive. There were perhaps one or two sketches that failed to completely connect with the audience but there was never an awkward moment or a missed punchline that are so common with amateur sketch shows and opening nights.
The only critique I can make of the show is its short runtime, with only two performances it seems a shame this quality content could not run for a full week.