The title summaries it all; this one-man performance is an exploration of all things patriarchal and masculine as protagonist Jake (played by Jake Jarratt) reminisces upon the male relationships in his life. The narrative is focused between himself and his father, and flickers from a nostalgic and romanticised childhood, to facing gritty reality. Joined on stage with just a few cardboard boxes and with a beautiful and engaging soundscape behind him, Jake presents an intense and intimate perspective into life growing up in the North East.
Jake’s character is immediately encapsulating, and his performance sustains this intensely tangible and real feeling. This is presumably because he reflects an authentic experience lived by many right now. This is one that plays into the stereotype of ‘the angry young man’, a long-established figure from British New Wave cinema that sought to encapsulate a Northern, working-class experience. But this is strictly a male experience, one that feels disenfranchised, isolated, and hopeless.
And yet there is a certain timelessness to it. Omitting the odd reference to a mobile phone, Jake’s life is virtually temporally unplaceable in a modern Britain. This highlights the problem that such masculinity has remained static since the origins of the character were forged in the fifties. And the play’s cyclical structure emphasises this sense of inescapable suffering and bleakness. Repetition of episodes and sketches throughout the performance cements this hopelessness as it solidifies a sense of paralysation for Jake, and the many other Jakes, with similar lives.
It may be acknowledged from the title, but this performance is almost entirely devoid of any reference to women. In fact, in the only mention to female characters are unnamed and assigned into a categorised role – the ‘local slag’, the barmaid and the mother. Yet it is fair to say that there is only one defined representation of a certain kind of man, the ‘blokes, fellas and geezers’ specifically. As simultaneously exclusive and distinct this representation may be, it is one that is still found in Britain today.
The performance may end on this notion of bleakness, but in a way it offers us hope. The play is probably not that relatable to those in the audience with the spare time and money for a niche play on a Wednesday night. In the first half it was approaching uncomfortable when watching Jake’s childish idealisation and romanisation of austerity. But then we are called out for it in the latter half, when an increasingly lonely and raging Jake screams “they are all laughing but nothing is funny”. As Jake becomes increasingly frustrated and angry at his life and those around him, he calls out the issues of living under the oppression of austerity, capitalism, and the patriarchy. By criticising the problems of these systems and raising awareness, he allows a platform for access to these marginalised working-class voices.