sun 26/05/2024

Natalie Palamides: Nate: A One Man Show, Netflix review - deep dive into toxic masculinity still has power | reviews, news & interviews

Natalie Palamides: Nate: A One Man Show, Netflix review - deep dive into toxic masculinity still has power

Natalie Palamides: Nate: A One Man Show, Netflix review - deep dive into toxic masculinity still has power

'One-man' show about consent

Natalie Palamides appears as alpha male Nate

Edgy comedy runs the risk of discomfiting the audience so much that they can't relax and enjoy the show. But Natalie Palamides, appearing as Nate, her alter ego, in Nate: A One Man Show on Netflix, pulls it off, and then some.

The show, which has a large degree of audience participation and which I first saw at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018, is wonderfully provocative. Here, to British eyes at least, it has an added layer of – perhaps in some way sadistic – enjoyment (if that's the right word) in seeing it performed before a liberal US audience at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, who appear even more reluctant to join in the more brazenly misogynistic elements. Good on them for that, but even more well done to Palamides for bringing the audience with her in a clever deconstruction of toxic masculinity.

Palamides looks like a cartoon alpha male – lots of hair (including queasily realistic chest hair), and dressed in combat boots and trousers, and a tartan lumber jacket.

We can laugh at Nate's swagger, but we soon realise there's a vulnerability here too. He may like the chicks and use coarse language about them, but he's taking an art class too. Nate is, as countless television star-making shows have taught us to say, on a journey. His girlfriend has just dumped him for reasons he doesn’t fully understand, and he's now trying – in earnest, we presume – to work out why.

Nate starts with a trick on the audience where he wins a silly drinking game; he tells us that means he can do whatever he wants to whomever he wants in the room – as long as he asks first.

As he asks permission to grope men and women in the audience, some consent, others do not, and a delighted Nate looks like the dull student who has just got a good grade for the first time; he's a good guy, because he asked. But there's a sting in the tale as Nate's story plays out – and the denouement works so well because Palamides has played a neat little bit of misdirection on us.

The show moves from comedic machismo with stunt tricks and heavy metal music to touching romance, from knockabout comedy and stretchy rubber cocks to a first date and sexual larks. But then mixed signals are the whole point of this show, in which broad laughs are followed by gasps of realisation as Palamides takes a deep dive into issues of consent.

Watching via a screen means that we perhaps don't feel the same jeopardy in the room because Nate can't pick on us. But – and this is credit to a very funny and deeply thoughtful show by Palamides, developed with and directed by Philip Burgers – it has even more power on a second viewing. If we were in any doubt, the shots of the audience, many horrified, others confused as to whether they can laugh at this grotesque, relay the proof.

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