REVIEW: The Man Presents – More Women
Sticking it to the Man: razor-sharp feminist comedy
Do you love women both romantically AND platonically? Do you like Strong Female Characters? You’d better be wearing a hard hat, because these women are going to be dropping some HARD TRUTHS (and they don’t want to breach any health and safety regulations while doing so).
With the sell-out run of The Man Presents: Women in Easter term clearly still lingering in people’s minds, the audience was warm and receptive – but even with a less enthusiastic crowd, there’s no doubt this would have been a highly enjoyable show. It demanded nothing from the audience, but offered plenty. The jokes didn’t fall flat because they weren’t reliant on audience laughs; they knew they would get them anyway.
Over the evening, eight women each took to the stage to perform an original sketch, related in part to the theme of womanhood. We saw original characters such as Woman Doctor (‘a female doctor, how topical!’); a perfectly content middle-management office worker called Cathleen; a jaded, hungover Dora the Explorer. Each theme gave the performers a springboard from which to explore a variety of ideas, but thankfully didn’t come across as a thematic strait-jacket; some of the sketches used ‘womanhood’ as the central idea for their sketch, while others merely made tangential connections and focused more on writing comedy for comedy’s sake.
Our compere, The Man, opened the show with a run of near-perfectly delivered jokes which were perceptive and well-written in equal measure, but the quality of the comedy seemed to decline slightly throughout the evening. With a start as strong as it was, it was probably always going to seem unbalanced in favour of the opening, and if anything the quality of the sketches began to detract from The Man’s comedic value – whether this was intentional or not, it was certainly pleasing to see the women outshine their ‘writer’.
In a show like this with so many highs, the lows were bound to be more pronounced. In this case, the highs came in the form of surreal humour which ran throughout several of the women’s sketches. The abundance of brilliant, bizarre one-liners was the most memorable part of many of the sketches, and in fact it was the absurdist comedy that felt the most confident. It was perhaps for this reason that it was hard to sustain at points; the women who adopted an exaggerated persona, whose sketches were densely packed with instant classics such as ‘I started off like all of you – as a foetus’, were certainly better received, while those whose style and identity was less distinct fared still positively, but lacked the polish that characterised the best of these sketches. Those who chose not to engage with the surreal humour felt slightly at odds with the sense of the evening, as if they’d missed the general pulse of the show.
The Man Presents: More Women managed to be a harmonious, nuanced exploration of what it is to be a woman, whilst still being diverse in its content and humour. Overall a satisfying production which, despite its less captivating moments, showcased plenty of high-quality humour.
(The Man Presents: More Women is on at 11PM at the ADC until Saturday 28 October. It has a rotating cast, with one cast performing Wednesday/Friday, and the other Thursday/Saturday.)