Two Man Show
Attacking the patriarchy with panache and passion
Performance art – or live art, or whatever name it has this week – has made the patriarchy the entry-level enemy for liberal artists. Of course, it needs to be smashed, undermined, deconstructed, and it's not just for the benefit of feminists. Men are oppressed, too.
Two Man Show, which has a cast of three women, begins with a history lesson on the evolution of hierarchy. Apparently, it emerged when agriculture helped men to notice that they had a role in reproduction, and that domesticated animals were slaves. The subsequent history of mankind – the clue is in the name – has been the unfolding of patriarchal power.
RashDash come on like feminist warriors, assuring the audience that they know everything and have the exact experience to be able to analyse the state of the contemporary crisis in masculinity. They proceed to perform a series of dance routines, songs and dialogues to explore the plight of two brothers attending on their dying father.
While the critique of patriarchy is witty and accurate, and the dialogues sensitively address male anxieties without apologising for male privilege, the genius of RashDash hides in the layers of performance. They play two women, playing two men, and the cracks between the characters expose both a critique of their critique and the insidious impact of patriarchy on men and women. Eventually, one of the men demands autonomy and questions one of the women on what she is hoping to achieve. This shattering of the simple narrative line – men have power, men oppress, men have to perform their masculinity – goes beyond the simplistic targeting of the obvious and breaks open notions of theatre and truth, rhetoric and action.
Two Man Show does the hard work of attacking patriarchy, moving past the identification of stereotypes and encouraging a rethink of where power lies, how performance is another way of avoiding serious questions and self-analysis, and what constitutes a useful addition to the ongoing conversations about gender identity. That the ensemble are talented musicians (in a punk context), convincing actors, good dancers, imaginative choreographers and beautiful singers sweetened the message, but Two Man Show attacks patriarchy, lazy feminism and predictable performance art.
Northern Stage at Summerhall, 8.15pm until 27 Aug, £11 (£9).