By Susanna Chilver, Third Year, Politics and International Relations
Following their own experiences and observations of misogyny, Director Anna Sharp’s ‘Manosphere’ is an effective introduction to the dangers of the misogynistic culture we live in. Opening to packed out Winston audiences, the show kept the audience gripped as its story twisted and turned through laughter and lecture.
Set in a university study space – very reflective of those we might find in the SU living room – the story follows a mish-mash of students (FemSoc, the football team, and a few drifters) who find themselves locked-in when sightings of a dangerous, knife-wielding incel are reported in the building.
Praise should immediately be attributed to the brilliantly curated set. The study space that the story is set in is even more attractive than those you see dotted around campus. Set designer Rachael Stentiford displayed a fantastic eye for detail, with subliminal nods to the theme evident everywhere, from the wallpaper to the carpet to the books scattered on the desks.
The harsh, bright lighting was most effective at the very end, leaving the dramatic tableau that the actors finished on etched in the audience’s mind. The set remained constant, as did the time and place – the audience were invested as the time we experienced was just as long as that of the characters.
Obviously, the themes in such a play are highly delicate and sensitive, but it has to be said that they were handled gracefully. Producer Stan Abbot-Stacey and Sharp had already explained to me their process of devising, and the hard work they put the actors through to get them into character and the play into shape. The hard work paid off – the final ‘script’ was a fine balance of light humour and serious soliloquy.
The only slight criticism that I have in this regard is the way that the dialogue had a slight tendency to trickle into preachy territory. Then again, the stated purpose of this play is to educate those who may not be aware of incel culture, or the extent of misogynistic culture as a whole, so it makes sense that some of the issues covered had to be explained in rather plain terms. Further, the laughter that could be heard from different sections of the audience at different points throughout the production proves that it hit different nerves, and the multitude of lessons that people learnt.
Sharp and Abbot-Stacey had also emphasised the value of the relationships between the cast and crew, and how much of a bonding experience the play had been. The ensemble cast certainly worked very well together, and this was seen best when the dialogue found its quipping groove.
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At the points where the dialogue was longer, and more explanatory, a small sag in the energy of the cast could be seen, and the dynamic, constantly-moving nature of the piece meant some of the cast’s energy was misdirected at times. But these are small criticisms, as generally the cast did exceptionally, and I was completely hooked on the story.
Tremendous comic turns came at the end from Ben Gilvear as the unassuming footballer Jack, and other star performances include Emma Monnickendam as Alfie, Jago Abbott as Jonah and Kalila Smith as Saffron.
Each actor gave convincing and finely-tuned performances, and the lengthy process of characterisation shined through incredibly effectively. Handling a sensitive and challenging piece, the entire cast and crew gave this performance their all, and to great avail.
‘Manosphere’ plays at The Winston Theatre 3rd-5th February
Featured Image: Manosphere
Have you seen 'Manosphere'? Let us know your thoughts!