By Niki Northcott, Final Year Italian and Spanish
Raw, vulnerable and punchy, Caravan Guys Theatre are shining light on the normalised toxicity of homosocial relationships and emotional suppression through their Berkovian explosion of entertainment.
It feels only appropriate to firstly applaud Theo Mason-Wood and Albert Haddenham’s excellent performances. Their chemistry drives the 60-minute show, their flawless exchanges of power blending their characters’ shifts or transformations and providing for irresistible engagement. Not to mention their indisputable talent. Their musical ability and clever use of accents combine to deliver a fantastic piece of weeknight theatre.
Fundamentally, they deal with the prevalent discussion regarding gender and masculinity. The emotional disconnection and competitive nature of the “violent tornado of friendship” so many men are familiar with is shoved in our faces with intensity. When Albert performs the “gay dance”, Theo gets “pissed on”, granting the former the safety, security and self-assurance in the knowledge that at least they are winning something. The development of the father character strengthens the thematic examination to one which highlights not only adolescent pressures, but also the deteriorating impact of decade-long emotional repression.
It seems purely satirical when, for the first 15 minutes, half of the cast is entirely naked. Or when Theo and Albert seemingly break character to fight between each other. However, it is precisely this stripped-down and punk-style commitment which illuminates the unfortunate realities of gender expectations: nudity is vulnerability and freedom is violence. We laugh, but then are slapped in the face by the brutal realisation that this is the world in which we live.
One striking lesson which the Caravan Guys teach in that small roof space of the “overpriced Bristol pub” (their words, not mine), is the attention we must pay to our language. Perhaps it is their direct bluntness or captivating confidence, but to be so honestly confronted by the heartbreaking and derogatory vocabulary which has long been intrinsic to spoken English shakes you to the core. Drinking a pint does not make you a “legend”, just like drinking a coke does not make you “gay”.
I recommend grabbing a ticket to ‘How to Beat Up Your Dad’ if you get the chance – keep an eye out for it at the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals this year. I will finish this article as Theo and Albert did their performance, encouraging anyone who is affected by issues relating to gender, masculinity or mental health to reach out and speak to someone. The University offers well-being support and similarly there are numerous charities and organisations who do great work, such as CALM and Mind.
Featured image: Caravan Guys
Have you been to the Alma Tavern & Theatre recently?