‘What he said’ is an assortment of short plays written by a range of writers and performed by a small group of actors produced by Pique Niche Productions. The common theme was varying social logics of why men feel discouraged to talk about emotional issues.
As a man I was encouraged by the theme and the intention, especially given the strong link to and support of Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), a charity united against suicide (visit thecalmzone.net for more information). It was fantastic to see that part of the drive of the production was to raise money for CALM.
Both Parents Matter
‘Both Parents Matter’ is a short play written by Mark Davoren which explores the perspectives and experiences of four different fathers who meet in a dads support group. Each characterises their own custody battles, highlighting how the system has let them down. The writing was little more than surface deep, and never developed any narrative or sense of sympathy. The climax was rushed and used more for shock effect that as a real development of narrative.
The actors for this play were James Lawrence, Paul Taylor, Robert Smith and Rob Keyes. The acting was generally good but felt a little under-rehearsed, which was very disruptive to the flow of the dialogue. Taylor stood out with a sense of realism and intention that was believable, likeable, and consistent.
‘Twister’ was a play by Ian Gray that felt like it was from a different realm of theatre than the other offerings this evening. The use of violence, both mental and physical was a Sarah Kane-esque trait that is usually so fascinating. The theme of men and post-traumatic stress disorder because of war was somewhat present, but I have to say that in general the play felt random, unnecessary and void of directive. Again, there was an attempt at shocking the audience, but from the reaction around the theatre this fell flat.
The play was performed by Christopher Smalley, John O’Gorman and PJ Murray. O’Gorman’s performance as Major Kostas was without a doubt the outstanding performance of the evening. He controlled the flow of the dialogue throughout, pushing the play forward at times when it started to lag. His character and especially was developed, intriguing and made for an enjoyable watch.
Now or Never
‘Now or Never’ was the shortest of the evenings offerings and had the most developed narrative. The theme included men who find it difficult to speak because of deep, damaging secrets. The piece had the best flow of the evening and could easily have been twice as long and could still have been intriguing. I longed for the wider world around this play, as it seemed like one short section from a much wider narrative.
The piece was performed by John Purcell and Rob Keyes. Purcell’s portrayal of a tortured father was great quality. Physically he embodied a pained parent, a neglected husband, and a betrayed friend, and I thoroughly enjoyed his performance.
‘Pillow Talk’ by Ste Mc was an intriguing monologue, focussing on how sometimes men try to be an emotional crutch for others, meanwhile forgetting to focus on their own mental health, or refuse to add to the burden of others by sharing their own. The concept of this piece was fascinating, and the fantastic performance of Paul Taylor drew the audience in. Unfortunately, this image was often broken by the flow of dialogue, which utilised unnatural words and phrases ill-fitting of the character and themes.
In general, the direction of Donna M Day could have focussed much more on the flow of the dialogue, as this often landed unnaturally on the ear, with accents and inflections consistently falling in jarring places. Whilst the acting was generally good it was difficult to focus on this with the dialogue issues.
Again, congratulations to all the writers and actors who have dedicated their time to such a worthy cause. Some of the material here was developed and captivating, whilst other parts may benefit from more exploration.
Due to the multiple offerings on stage tonight North West End UK, in common with previous performances of this type will not award an overall star rating.
Reviewer: Andrew Lee
Reviewed 29th July 2022