Men in the Cities at the Royal Court Theatre
Men in the Cities returns to the black box theatre at the Royal Court after garnering a Fringe First award at the festival in Edinburgh in August 2014. A monologue in the third person punctuated with first-hand accounts throughout, the one-man show weaves together several seemingly unrelated stories, well-crafted and delivered with just-bearable poignancy by experimental theatre-maker Chris Goode.
Apparent from its title, the play treats the urban male condition from a handful of perspectives, starting with the gratuitously violent murder of British soldier Lee Rigby and manoeuvring to the very private thoughts of a precociously sexual ten year old. While the show does not challenge the social conventions of masculinity, Men in the Cities presents the modern man in perpetual crisis, even if latent at times. The text is astutely interlaid with intertextuality, including a nod to Robert Longo, the visual artist best-known for his Men in the Cities series whence the play takes its name.
With eyes closed, Goode’s delivery is exactly that of the omnipotent narrative voice heard whilst reading from print, which is further accentuated by the lyrical writing. However, once eyes hone in on Goode on the stage, practically bare save for a heap of electric fans in the background, he manages to transfer a palpable uneasiness, whether he intends to or not. Director Wendy Hubbard aptly compliments the writing with minimalistic direction, involving lighting cues and attuned sound clips that diversify the syncopated succession of passages. That being said, the show still experiences difficulty in maintaining interest and focus, especially towards the middle where the narrative waffles and wanes before the abrupt climax.
This fragmented account of the male condition is most potent in its suggestion of the universality of personal strife, summarised simply by the fact that everyone has his own reasons. The most compelling aspects of the piece are the moments in which Goode incorporates a reflexively authorial voice, exposing the audience to key parts of the writing process. Although far from being a deeply touching or memorable work, this ponderous portrait of the modern man is an unconventional approach to the act of storytelling.
Men in the Cities is on at Royal Court Theatre from 21st July until 1st August 2015, for further information or to book visit here.