Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Sep 13 – 17, 2016
Playwright: Gavin Roach
Director: Lauren Hopley
Cast: Gavin Roach
Image by Jarrod Rose
The monologue begins with Gavin Roach talking about penis size, a discussion indicative of the inadequacies that men can feel. The Measure Of A Man is not entirely about genitals, but it is about sex, and the effects on one’s emotional well-being when sexual dysfunctions appear. Roach’s writing endeavours to be absolutely revealing, and its vulnerability can be disarming, but for a context of physical and mental health, his disclosures have a tendency to dwell on symptoms rather than a deeper exploration into the causes of his worries. We find out in great detail, many of the issues the unnamed character faces with regard to sexual activity, but there is little insight into the reasons that might let us identify more closely with his circumstances.
Roach is a charming performer, able to present both humour and pathos with excellent conviction. His strong presence has a vivacious energy that provides an essential liveliness to the one-man-show format, but the play’s strong tendency for melancholy misses many an opportunity for scenes of comedy and mirth. Sex is a serious matter, but it is also very funny, and joking about it does not diminish its resonance. We connect more with Roach when he is self-effacing and camp. When performing his distinct style of flirty and transparent frivolity, we sense an ironic but truer depiction of his inner-self than when he shifts into high drama. Perhaps the stakes are too low to match.
Frank descriptions of unreliable body parts and lustful misadventures in The Measure Of A Man represent a progressive sex positive attitude that many will find refreshing and liberating. Queer artists have often faced the problem of having to play to mainstream heteronormative audiences, and in the process, become compromised and misleadingly puritanical in their expressions. As societies become more embracing of diversity and honesty in how we talk about sex, sexuality and gender, queer work can begin to be less pandering. Good taste will always exist, but artists must find a way to let their truths protrude, even if just a few meagre inches.