Ripped (3 stars)

This article is from 2019


credit: Pamela Raith

A taboo-breaking one-man show about male-rape

What is it to be a 'real man'? What are the obstacles to being comfortable with one's own sexuality, and how can one reconstruct a sense of self which has been damaged by a violent sexual act? Ripped is a play looking to explore the taboo subject of male rape.

Written by and starring Alex Gwyther, Ripped takes no prisoners in its unswerving efforts to portray an unpleasant truth. 96 percent of male rape goes unreported, according to Gwyther, and his show, directed by Max Lindsay, attempts to suggest why. Jack (Gwyther) sits watching Rambo movies with a friend; whatever brutality he encounters, Rambo doesn't flinch, Rambo doesn't bleed. From Jack's point of view, the stoic quality of the Sylvester Stallone character is something to look up to.

Jack has a secret to hide, something that no amount of male camaraderie, manipulative sexual encounters and snorted lines of white powder can delete. Eventually, the past catches up with Jack, and he's forced to face up to what he most fears in this one-man show.

Gwyther has the knack of capturing the audience's attention as he brings Jack to life. The weakness here is that Jack's understanding of his situation is limited. His reaction to his trauma is presented in binary terms: he's either a victim or an aggressor. There are no grey areas here; he acts out in a physically and emotionally violent way, and he's caught in a negative cycle. How that cycle might be broken or even addressed isn't clear.

There's a lot of pain in Ripped, but there's also a lack of humanity that might illuminate Jack's problems. Gwyther has run a successful Kickstarter campaign to put this brave play on and, based on these results, he's not far from a break-thorough show about this distressing but undeniably important subject.

Underbelly Cowgate, until 25 Aug (not 12), 1pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10)


  • 3 stars

Robin Rayner Productions 96% of all male rape cases go unreported. Masking his trauma, Jack steps into the absurd world of modern masculinity and reinvents himself as a "real man". This is his explosive story. How far will Jack go to fit in, whilst hoping his past never catches up with him? Written by and starring Alex…