Locker Room Talk is a very interesting piece of theatre. From a technical perspective, it’s good: well put together, well researched, well staged, well “scripted” and brilliantly acted. It’s an unusual concept in that the players are listening to real life conversations recorded by the inspired playwright Gary McNair, and voicing the parts as they hear them. It’s not spontaneous – they know which their bits are and it’s rehearsed and repeated nightly, but the effect of the listening and speaking makes for as close to spontaneity as any script is ever going to bring. What’s more, hearing those real voices seems to have a significant impact on the actors, who emulate the toxic lad banter they’re hearing uncannily well. It’s as if we are actually seeing and listening to these men, as we swiftly suspend our disbelief.
Once the performance is finished, a forum for discussion is opened, providing an unusual and useful opportunity for me as a reviewer, to gauge response to the piece. Locker Room Talk doesn’t – in the main – shock this audience, much of the content is actually very familiar and significantly unpleasant territory. However there’s a catharsis to the laughter and ridicule of the ignorant and ridiculous conversations we hear, that is both therapeutic and funny. Under the direction of Orla O’Loughlin, the women on stage do a wonderful job of truthfully sending up the characters in ways that draw regular and hearty laughs from throughout the audience – it’s brilliant comic acting combining the perfect proportions of subtlety with exaggeration. It’s also deeply uncomfortable viewing and a depressing look at our society, for which the piece makes no apology, rather seeking to be a contribution toward the catalyst of change and a much needed metamorphosis in equality, harassment, female denigration and gender bias.
Understandably this is a particularly hard watch for men who are not complicit with this kind of behaviour and some felt the need to iterate during the discussion section, that not all men are like this. This piece isn’t saying that all men are like this (particularly as a man researched and wrote it), but it is shining a light on the many who are, rather than presented a whole and full spectrum of masculinity, something worth bearing in mind if you’re going to see this. Locker Room Talk forces us to re-examine and question that which is so often deemed as harmless banter, exposing its toxicity in a new, creative and impactful way. It also proves (yet again) just how electrifying, rounded and utterly brilliant, theatre with an all-female cast can be.
Photo courtesy of Mihaela Bodlovic.
For more on the Traverse Theatre programme click here.