sun 23/06/2024

Many Good Men, Tynecastle Stadium, Edinburgh review - daring but flawed provocation | reviews, news & interviews

Many Good Men, Tynecastle Stadium, Edinburgh review - daring but flawed provocation

Many Good Men, Tynecastle Stadium, Edinburgh review - daring but flawed provocation

A shocking attack kicks off an audacious experience that makes its audience complicit, in Clare Duffy's ambitious but patchy show

Seduced by Incel beliefs: from left, Anthony O'Neil, Jaden Baker and Chinedu Igu in the audacious, immersive 'Many Good Men'Chi Wai Cheung

There’s been an incident in Edinburgh. Right near the Scottish Parliament. Several dead, many more injured. Among the witnesses were two of the capital’s young football stars, now clearly traumatised by what they’ve seen. Someone shouting about women running the world, inflicting their agenda on powerless men. Something needs to happen – these people should be hunted down, made to pay for what they’ve done.

The questions are there right from the startling opening of this slippery new show aiming to dissect Incel culture from a consortium of Scottish theatre companies – Civic Digits, Stellar Quines and Stories Untold – and co-writer/director Clare Duffy, who’s drawn further on groups of young people during the show’s creation. Those questions are posed fairly directly in a show (if show’s the right word) that speaks straight to its audience right from the start. What are Incels and what do they believe? Are punishment and retribution really any better than revenge? And anyway, isn’t there something seductive – even right – about what they’re preaching?

Young goalie Derek (a simmering Anthony O’Neil) seems to think so, at least by the end of Many Good Men’s 90 minutes of action, discussion and online video sampling. He ends up so deeply immersed in his research into Incel culture that it darkly morphs from condemnation to fascination – and begins to colour his real-life relationships, with fellow team members (like a quietly spoken Chinedu Igu), parents and partner (played with bracing honesty by a convincingly multi-tasking Jaden Baker).

The biggest question of all, though, is what Many Good Men actually is. Definitely not a play, in many ways not quite a show, maybe more of a provocation. The audience is so closely involved (or implicated, even complicit) that it sometimes feels uncomfortably like a piece of didactic theatre for young people – a form in which, truth be told, Many Good Men might feel a lot more persuasive, even within a subject that’s so dark, so adult, so intimate. Whether voting on videos, or even getting drawn into discussions and alternative scenes and characters, it’s an approach that feels at once daring and disruptive, as though a textbook is being enacted in front of us, complete with participatory exercises. The constant reminder that these are real events and real online videos by real people is one of the show’s strengths. Whether by the end we understand much more about background causes, motivations or possible solutions is another question entirely, however.

Offering the show’s real coup de théâtre is its unusual location – Edinburgh’s Tynecastle Stadium, home of Heart of Midlothian FC – which, while adding another layer of immediacy, also brings with it a sense of distance. It’s undeniably compelling – not to mention enlightening – to be in the actual locations where the scenes are happening – locker rooms, bars, even the stands themselves. But the lengthy walks between positions not only dilutes the atmosphere, but also makes what was already quite a fragmentary experience delivered across several media sources even more broken-up.

It’s an undeniably ambitious show, both in subject matter and in its multimedia, immersive approach. But it’s perhaps a little too ambitious for its own good, with the result that simple questions of dramatic impetus and motivation get somewhat sidelined. But Many Good Men is a bold, audacious show all the same, one that dares to peer deeply into one of the darkest corners of contemporary culture – without condemnation, but without easy answers either.

It's definitely not a play, not quite a show, maybe more of a provocation


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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