In the last few years, there have been a plethora of theatrical productions tackling toxic masculinity and the pressure on young males to act as “real men”, whatever it means. The last Edinburgh Fringe Festival offered a wide selection of shows on the topic, from laugh-out-loud plays to more serious shows, and I am glad about this attention, as it is a real problem that can lead to very dysfunctional behaviour when these young men become adults.
Lad (not to be confused with Lads, also showing at the Vault Festival), written and performed by Rhys Dunlop and Alan Mahon, directed by Thomas Martin, is the latest brilliant example of how awareness on such an important and delicate topic can be raised while entertaining the audience from start to finish. This is a two-men show: Steve (played by Mahon), a young male working as a shelf-stacker in Tesco, and a second, who I will call ‘Lad’, the personification of Steve’s desire to be a perfect alpha male (played by Dunlop). Lad’s main role is to make sure Steve behaves like a real man, and as a true lad to get laid as much as possible. However, beneath the surface, Steve is a sweet, slightly shy and insecure man, so Lad has to be constantly vigilant to stop Steve’s unmanly behaviour like apologising or displaying feelings.
Steve is trying to write a speech for Dan’s wedding, as he is the best man; at the same time, he is applying for a new job as a tour guide at Dublin Zoo, because he has a huge passion for animals, and desperately looking for a plus one to take to the wedding. What ensues is a series of very politically incorrect situations under the sex-focused advice of Lad, always resulting in bad decisions and catastrophic results. All these misadventures build up to a breaking point and a moment of realisation that there is more to life than being a lad.
The onstage chemistry between Dunlop and Mahon is phenomenal, both very believable in their character. Dunlop is the perfect embodiment of what it means to be a lad, he is brash, energetic, vulgar and very transparent in his priorities. The hour-long show flies by, there is no slack, no moment to breathe, it is very funny even in its crudest moments. Clearly the show is not suitable for a younger audience or for easily offended people, as it is very rude and very graphic. However, it portraits perfectly the pressure young men are subject to in an attempt to become the perfect alpha male. The audience laughed a lot with a few groans at the most graphic descriptions. I found the show useful to reflect on how damaging some of the language we hear nearly every day: phrases such as “Man up”, “Stop being a girl” etc.
In summary, I enjoyed the show and found it effective in raising awareness on the topic of toxic masculinity, even if a bit crude. The depiction of Lad was spot on and the energy on stage was infectious.
Review by Fabio Ghiotto
Steve is ﬁne. No really, he’s grand. He’s a lad. He’s always been a lad — one of the lads. But the lads have changed and Steve feels like an endangered species. The last of his kind. With nobody to talk to.
But there’s one lad left. His lad. And his lad… talks back.
LAD is a cheeky two-hander that tugs playfully at the knot of toxic masculinity.
A balls-to-the-wall comedy about… balls. And becoming a better man.
Written and performed by Alan Mahon & Rhys Dunlop
Director Thomas Martin
Movement Consultant Bryan Burroughs
Lighting Design Cillian McNamara
Sound Design Ekaterina Solomatina
Set Design One Duck
Set Builder Stephen Lockhart
4 – 8 Mar 2020