How to beat up your dad @ the alma tavern and theatre
By Henry Richmond
On a quiet Wednesday evening on a small stage at The Alma Theatre, Theo Mason-Wood and Albert Haddenham – two halves of Caravan Guys – quite literally pissed all over gender normativity.
How To Beat Up Your Dad is a short, stripped-down, cathartic play about a boy affronted with the competitive pressure of the masculine condition of becoming a young man.
The performance is loose, self-conscious and I’ve never seen anything like it. Richly Berkovian and darkly funny, the audience found itself in fits of laughter; unsettled but unable to look away. Built upon an engaging rapport between the two actors, from the very first act nudity is used cleverly to depict vulnerability that is acutely aware that a theatre full of strangers can see. Emerging naked from a trunk onstage, calling Beckett to mind, Theo is ‘a bitch in a box’ that comes to symbolise his character’s confrontation with the homosocial gaze and the burden of losing his virginity.
Here masculinity is about winning; achieving manliness is only possible by proving yourself more manly than another man. In what was for me the most interesting act, the narrative is placed on hold as actors break character, creating playful metaphorical potential. They argue about who should say the best lines in a hilariously measured game of one-upmanship that brutally reflects the reality of masculine anxiety that tries to continually affirm itself by belittling others. Violence is the only escape. The manuscript is cast onto the stage in plain view as if to suggest to the audience that however long social laws have been written, they can always be scribbled out and changed. This said, the scripted corpsing did stretch on for too long and caused a dip in momentum and rhythm that had been so well established in earlier scenes.
Through wildly innovative storytelling, an important lesson that How To Beat Up Your Dad teaches is not, in fact, how to beat up your dad (apologies to those who were misled by the title), but that inherited trauma isn’t necessarily an easy fix. It shows us that trauma is messy and that we need to address the stories we tell ourselves about our own baggage before we can hope to understand.
Getting tickets to see this bewitching dark comedy really is a wise move- keep your eyes peeled for the future work of Caravan Guys because this exciting new company will have big things to come.
Photographer: Summer Dean, courtesy of Caravan Guys