Review: The Me Plays, Old Red Lion

"I can be a top man"

In a (cultural) world that is arguably dominated by white men, there are precious few pieces of work that probe with any real insight into the world of modern masculinity, the challenges a regular heterosexual male has to face in a fast-changing world that does little but tell him to check his privilege. The Me Plays, Andrew Maddock’s pair of self-performed, semi-autobiographical monologues achieve just that though, in a remarkable piece of spoken word performance that balances humour and pathos perfectly. 

Both are told from the perspective of ‘Me’, a pretty stand-up guy but one who is battling his own demons. In Junkie, we see him exploring the world of modern dating, specifically through the app Tinder and a forthcoming date with the lovely-sounding Tabitha, but struggling under the untrammelled bounty of internet porn available at the click of any of his digital devices. Maddock skilfully traces an emotional journey through troubled self-image, damaging addictions and societal expectations he can never reach.

Hi Life, I Win sees Me in a hospital bed, preparing to receive the results of a worrisome biopsy, and letting his mind take him on a flight of fancy that starts with amusing old school memories but winds its way through musings on mortality and the existence of God as the nostalgic haze of 90s popular culture references gives way to the more pressing concerns of what the future may or may not hold for him. In the wrong hands, this could well be unnecessarily grim but there’s a real deftness of touch here that lifts the spirit. 

Directed by Ryan Bradley, Maddock delivers two smashing performance, suffused with a beautiful candid warmth that is both endearing and engaging and which feels entirely emotionally true. I’m of a similar enough age for many of the school-hood memories to really chime but so much of the writing reflects universal fears and funnies that it would be nigh-on impossible not to connect on some level. Charlie Marie Austin’s design is striking for its simplicity, allowing the attention to focus on the flow of words – sometimes poetic, sometimes pfunny, always powerful. 

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes (with interval) 
Booking until 20th September 
Photo: Hannah Ellis