Review: The Man Presents: Womxn

Think girls aren’t funny? Well think again.

The Man Presents: Womxn is a show for anyone who’s ever been told that “girls just aren’t funny” by a ten (or eighteen!) year old boy with a runny nose, who adds insult to the injury by proceeding to tell various fart jokes for the next twenty minutes. Anyhow, *Newsflash*, it’s 2020 – cis men no longer have the monopoly on comedy, and if you weren’t convinced about this before last night’s “one night stand” you should be now. 

In essence, The Man Presents: Womxn is a comedy show, directed by Ella Burns and Katie Devey, consisting of eight monologues by women and non-binary comedians, presented by the ominous “Man” (the suffix -splainer goes without saying). With perspectives ranging from a school dinner lady with an adult side-hustle, to a tour-guide who would rather be anywhere else than a national trust home and an aggrieved Amazon Alexa owned by a sex-mad man, the show seeks to throw these women out of the tight boxes they’ve been placed in by The Man to explore their complex, strange and downright funny situations. 

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Proving that socially distanced doesn’t mean inferior | Photo credits: Martha French

Notable monologues which stuck out included Jeanette: a one-third school dinner lady, one-third sheep-wrestler, one-third phone sex worker and all-round legend. Their eclectic stage presence kept me awake, despite the show being past my usual bedtime, and their use of oh-so-familiar traditionally masculine body language and mansplaining tendencies provided a secondary layer of humour – a true “woman of the sheeple”. 

The subversion of gender norms was a theme recurring in other acts, without getting any less funny, and the reading by  Dr Cassandra Esther Goodwillow-Watson was another highlight of the showcase. The monologue consisted of a reading from a Dick and Dom fan-fiction which revelled in the pretensions of male writers (why *do* they insist on licking their finger before they turn a page?), and their ability to both make inconsequential things into deep, philosophical life lessons, and say a lot about absolutely nothing, all of which was played up incredibly well here. 

Meanwhile Caroline, the unnervingly hyper-active children’s TV show presenter served up huge Cassie from Skins vibes, with her to-ing and fro-ing between bitter stories of tragedy, bullying and sex, and energetic cartwheels and dances. The pure chaotic energy in the monologue, created through excessive amounts of movement and discussion of serious issues in a jovial, excited manner, was brought to its head at the end of the monologue, with the performance ending with her screaming on a chair, before jumping down to wave goodbye, with the cheesiest grin as if nothing had happened, resulting in a simultaneously disconcerting and amusing performance which was truly captivating. 

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Providing big Cassie from Skins energy | Photo credits: Martha French

The show was performed to an empty theatre, being live-streamed to us at home, but this didn’t significantly impact the dynamic and the atmosphere of the show, with references to those both “in the room and in the zoom” and attempts to encourage audience participation. All of the performers were seated in a socially distanced semi-circle, which was both reminiscent of an alcoholics anonymous meeting and created a sense of solidarity. 

Monologues were performed individually, with one or two repeated threads in the form of jokes concerning oral hygiene, which came across as being more amusing simply because it was repeated so frequently, as opposed to the nature of the joke, although more interlacing within the monologues wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Props were used sparingly but effectively, enabling each performer to make their performance their own, for example with the use of an armchair for the haughty Dr Cassandra’s performance. But in terms of making each monologue their own, the performers did a fantastic job in owning the space, using body language, movement and tone to bring their personalities to life in a vibrant manner, which is no mean feat given the relatively short time of each monologue. 

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Sound of music but make it feminist | Photo credits: Martha French

And finally! The sex references! At times this petered into the territory of being *monologues about sex with some comedy thrown in* with a consistent assault of vibrators, thrush and references to pornography. But there’s no complaints here on that front; after all, we’ve all had to put up with the shit sex jokes of sixteen-year-old boys, so why shouldn’t they put up with ours? 

Overall, the show was both funny in a *exhale large amounts of air through your nose at dry comments* funny and *actually laugh out loud funny*. Rather than the humour of the show being reliant on a group of women and non-binary people hating on men, the show’s humour came from subtly drawing attention to the hypocrisies and pretensions of men, complimented by the hilarity, complexity and quirks of each character. There were a few recycled jokes here and there, but on the whole the content was funny and original, and from a diverse range of perspectives which allowed for some amusing content. 

And aside from everything else, I’m in total awe of the guts of these comedians to stand up and tell jokes to an empty room; I can barely hack doing it in a group chat of six people! 4/5 

Feature image credit: Martha French