Waking up in Brighton today, I knew that I would need to be back in the centre of things this evening in order to catch “Choir of Man” at press night. It’s the show that’s reopening The Art’s Theatre West End after all the horrible fuckeration. “Six, The Musical” was there before everything went to shit. I caught that and adored it. Now, after all the mess we’ve had, I wanted to show up for the big night and be there while humans sang songs to us from that very special small stage.
First of all though, the important things. Lou hasn’t got a car, which means there’s a way in which I can make myself useful. We drove out to Chanctonbury Fell – the place where I communed with the pheasant spirit some time ago. We walked up slippery clay pathways, almost unrecognisable after heavy rainfall. The ancient ground was hardyielding many less familiar mushrooms. It’s the right time of year for mycology. I had plenty to consider.
Lou and I found time to spend in nature, even if I was on high alert much of the time, eyes scanning the pathways, curious and hopeful to pick up first and second clear sightings of excellent mushrooms. The time not spent doing that was spent joyfully being in nature with my sputnik. I felt calm, wild and flat when it was time to drive back up into town.
And what a show. It’s a tricky fucker to sell to those of us who care about theatre. 9 men in principal roles and another 4 on music. Self consciously celebrating the positive side of pub culture and the positive side of what one might call “the divine masculine”. It’s a very very male show, and they pull up women from the audience to serenade, which could be a horrible mess. It’s a knife edge. It’s huge fun. It’s tenderly done, and with terrific skill. It asks us to drop quite a lot.
Right now, we are so used to culturally exploring the fucked side of men. We are also trying hard as an industry to balance jobs. Not to mention the awareness that we all have that a deeply toxic and entirely man driven culture somehow got sewn into our industry over generations – and every other industry in the world. The arts is flushing it. Other industries are slower, but they will.
Knowing that, and watching thirteen men celebrate masculinity…? I found myself relieved, somehow. Happy that there’s a new and young artistic dialog that lets the pub male be more than just the sweating and inarticulate woman-fearing racist that we all know so well.
Also this is a show that helps us remember the value of our public houses. With a government that wants us all to stop congregating and just get us medicating at home so we are ever ever closer to just being batteries, we need alternative noise in the mainstream.
Is there room in the cultural space for something that celebrates men like this and only employs them? Hmm. I’ve got my 50:50 badge on my altar and to my own detriment I’ve campaigned for years for a better balance of gender in my industry. I know that there’s still work to be done. But this show isn’t undoing any work – to my mind as I write. To me it feels a moment to celebrate the good things about men. Sure, then we can all get back to being angry about the men who have finally been rumbled for being disgraceful in positions of power. We can get back – and we must – to being regretful and forward thinking about the generations of utter fuckwombles who never got held up at all for treating humans like shit – to making sure that stuff NEVER happens again. But meanwhile, let’s watch some dudes singing.
I loved it. I cannot be in conflict with myself about that. I just loved it. Stet. Musically beautiful humans. An unexpected show with an unexpected perspective, and they aren’t doing politics so it seems wrong for me to do politics in response. Noise. Light. Joy.. Go see it if you like fun. Go see it double if you like men. There’s no axe to grind in this piece outside of the very obvious one about employment numbers. I know the administration at The Arts well enough to be able to tell you right now that they are already taking every step to balance that gender gap, and they are very conscious about having made such a programming choice.
Go see it. That’s my recommendation. I had a wonderful evening. I just wish I didn’t have to get up at fuck o’clock to go talk about The National Grid again.