City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Locker Room Talk, Traverse Theatre, Review

By Erin Roche - Posted on 05 April 2018

Show Details
Traverse Theatre
Traverse Theatre Company
Gary McNair (writer), Orla O'Loughlin (director), Kevin McCallum (production manager), Renny Robertson (chief electrician), Claire Elliot (deputy electrician), Gary Staerck (head of stage), Tom Saunders (lighting & sound technician), Gary Morgan (company stage manager), Linda Crooks (executive producer), Ruth McEwan (producer), Sunniva Ramsay (assistant director)
Rachael Spence, Blythe Duff, Caroline Deyga, Rehanna MacDonald
Running time: 

Gary McNair, being a man, has the unique ability to be invited into frank conversations with men all too willing to share, and own, their sexist views on women. These are conversations that happen when women aren’t present, and, as one audience member commented, this is just the tip of the iceberg-- there is always some element of self-censorship when you’re being recorded. These conversations with hundreds of men and boys have been presented in the form of a play, read out by four women on a bare stage in the Traverse Theatre.

Locker Room Talk is provocative verbatim theatre, and it has to be. Women are all too often not believed, not taken seriously in reporting acts of verbal or physical violence and harassment, and for that reason, there leaves little use for fictional accounts of misogynistic conversations...we need to hear the actual words in actual, real-life conversations. This feeling is echoed in the Director Orla O’Loughlin’s thoughts: that it is vital for these texts to be performed, “truthfully and with as little interpretation as possible.” This explains the four women on stage wearing headphones, listening live and in sync to the recorded tracks and delivering them identically to the inflections and intonations in their ears.

The reason for the title (and catalyst for the play) is the Trump election of 2016, or, more specifically, society’s apathy, acceptance and normalisation of Trump’s sexist, objectifying rhetoric about women. Listening to Trump’s voice, listening again to the blood boiling comments we now all know too well played out before the start of the play is sickening, triggering. But his words do not begin and end with him--as this play points out, they’ve been echoing in their own way among certain male-identifying groups from stag dos to offices to playgrounds long before his candidacy.

This piece is argument for the power and breadth of what theatre can do, how the empathy of the stage can spark difficult and important conversations and debates. As uncomfortable as it is to listen to the very real accounts of men spewing “slags” and "plastic bag jobs," their numeric rating systems for attraction, and their attitudes towards women in places of work, it is important to remember that these conversations happen, they’re real, and they’re not going to go away by themselves. By intentionally including only these types of accounts and not aiming to create a balanced view of positive and negative conversations about women, the playwright argues that a shift in conversation from “#NotAllMen” to “How Can I Help?” is imperative to move the needle of equality forward.

McNair urged that this piece be “unashamedly relentless” and unapologetic in the way Locker Room Talk lays out the dialogue, and it calls for all of us to be unashamedly relentless and unapologetic in challenging toxic masculinity and casual sexism-- where these conversations grow from disgusting and offensive words to violent and life-altering actions.

I lived in Missouri, USA during the Trump election, a red state with ‘Make America Great Again’ signs on many a front lawn. For me as a woman and as an American, this piece was enraging, cathartic, essential. It’s a shame it took the installment of a misogynist predator into arguably the most powerful position in the free world to make Locker Room Talk happen. Many, many women have loved ones that made an irreparable and relationship-altering decision on November 8th, 2016 to stand behind someone that perpetuates and excuses away this demeaning discourse as "locker room talk." If only we could have taken them to productions like these long before they got to the voting booth, maybe, just maybe, things would be different for me, for them, and for us.

Thurs Apr 5 - Sat Apr 7