Friday, February 23

Y’MAM – Everyman Theatre

Different languages express it in different ways – the straw that breaks the camel’s back, the final drop that makes the glass overflow – but all refer to the same moment of when the ‘red mist descends’ and anger takes over. We’ve all seen it – either in real life or on the screen, when ‘it all kicks off’ and a fight breaks out over nothing. Or over what seems like nothing, but as Y’MAM so eloquently explains, for the problem to exist, there must have been ‘an intro to the problem’.

Y’MAM – written by and performed by Majid Mehdizadeh (aka Luke Jerdy) – is based on Majid’s own life. Both the writing and the performance are stunning, though there were some moments when the need to convey the energy means individual words were lost, which is a shame, as the use of language is remarkable.

Developed over approximately 18 months, the show explores a range of topics, many of which have long been of concern to those dealing with the tsunami of mental health issues but where young men in particular have been left adrift due to the culture of toxic masculinity, the need to ‘man up’, the ‘stiff upper lip’, the reluctance or refusal to talk about emotions.

Using a blend of the spoken word, rap, song, and physical drama, and with a clever use of film and lighting, the show takes us back and forth, weaving through defining moments in Majid’s life, but overall charting his journey from his school days, from being a geek to becoming both bully and bullied, ‘joining the manhood ladder’ and so becoming ‘Mad Maj’ with the need to dominate, to automatically respond by lashing out, until his realisation that he has to change or he will lose everything he holds most dear. 

We explore these moments both through Majid’s eyes but also from our privileged perspective as outsiders where we can see those crucial points – subtly signalled in the show – where there’s a fork in the road, and, as the audience, we urge him to realise the destructive and self destructive nature of his actions, but instead he takes the path of aggression, and the lack of self-awareness and the inability to reflect means he blames others for friendships falling away, for the unanswered texts.

And so we travel with him on the exhausting roller coaster of events and emotions, but the occasional change in pace or of register allows us to breathe and take stock, to assimilate the action. Nor is it as bleak as it might sound; the journey is an intensely personal and painful one but the action is punctuated by humour and through both the writing and the action, we are able to see through the anger to the true Majid, the person he wants to be. And the overall message is one of hope that there can be a change in how society sees young men and in how young men view society. This is a piece that deserves a much wider audience, but for now, I recommend as many of you as possible take this opportunity to see it.

Playing until 26th June

Reviewer: Johanna Roberts

Reviewed: 17th June 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★