Review | Laura Money
When I was 30, my Dad bought me an American Football helmet for my birthday. That got me thinking about what it means to be a man in contemporary society
UK performance artist Will Dickie didn’t know what to do with his helmet. It was clearly a kind gesture from his father, but was Dickie actually going to use it for football? No, he devised a complex piece of physical, immersive theatre – a devised, site-specific work that questions masculinity, camaraderie, and our relationships with society. In short – probably not what his Dad was thinking would happen either.
Team of the Decades refers to the group of people eagerly waiting to participate in the show. The team assembles at The Blue Room Theatre for the Perth run of the show, and are greeted by Coach, in this iteration played by Lawrence Murphy. Coach is a rather deft parody of ocker masculinity – the alpha male with a heart of gold who looks after his team with remote encouragement. It would be interesting to see how the Coach figure is portrayed in different countries. The team are led by coach through the streets of Northbridge to – well it’s a bit of a surprise so I won’t give it away. Murphy asserts himself as the leader, stopping traffic and giving the team directives, it turns a mysterious walk into an amusing journey. Just in case anyone thinks this is a nice walk in the park, think again. You will need a modicum of fitness and proper running shoes!
Upon arrival we finally encounter Dickie in full American Football attire, complete with aforementioned helmet. What follows are several pieces of physical theatre accompanied by a tape deck soundtrack consisting of recorded interviews with men in Dickie’s life – his father, his teacher, his own coach – these interviews are intertwined with tape recordings of American Football broadcasts, in particular pieces that praise men for their athletic prowess and reflect what it means to be a man. Dickie postures and runs, he uses his body as a literal battering ram running away from and towards patriarchal expectations at once. In a bid to prove himself worthy, Dickie purposefully sets off circumnavigating the park, only to playfully delight in climbing over play equipment – as he rounds the final corner, he looks beseechingly at Coach for approval.
It’s not just Dickie who learns a lesson on how we are supposed to act – the team learn to support each other, encourage one another, and even collaborate to provide an excellent offensive move. Dickie, now at the point of exhaustion stands bravely in the face of masculine norms as each team member breaks down those stereotypes in a barrage of camaraderie. It’s a brilliant message about toxic masculinity, and how men must perform even when they are at breaking point. Dickie gives everything – he writhes in pain and literally asks for his team to physically support him all to the soundtrack of men saying what it takes to be a man. Despite being part of a team, like the patriarchy, Dickie ends his journey in isolation. This heartbreaking performance of masculinity is difficult to watch but important to do so.
Team of the Decades is an intelligent swipe at binaries, language, and the performative nature of society. It immerses you into a world of sweat, energy, testosterone, and competition yet is intrinsically bound to supporting one another. The language used will not be a surprise to anyone who has ever participated in sport – and it’s interesting to contemplate why this masculine language became normalised by the sporting community. Will Dickie gives everything to this heartfelt show, so join him and become a true team player, or don’t but know that he has your back no matter what.
WHEN: 11th – 15th February 2020 | 5:00pm & 7:00pm
WHERE: Meet at THE BLUE ROOM THEATRE
INFO: Pricing $30 | Duration 60m | Suitability PG | Occasional Coarse Language, Outdoor Performance | Please note: this show requires the audience to walk, jog, and participate in mild exercise. You do not have to participate in every challenge but physicality is part of the experience. | Warning: show may run over time | DANCE & PHYSICAL THEATRE
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