Review | Laura Money
Attacking toxic masculinity and looking damn good while doing it, MAN-BO is the action-packed satire we all need in our lives – it’s 80s, it’s hilarious, and it’s a blistering attack on stereotypes all wrapped up in a balls-to-the-wall hour of heroism. Sam Dugmore is MAN-BO, a biting mashup of 80s action heroes with a slightly camp edge. His mission: to make you laugh! Dugmore rushes headlong into his piss-take of men’s suppressed anger and the outlet of war and violence through physical comedy, live montages, and surprisingly complex action sequences that would actually stand up against some of the mega films being referenced. So stop holding out for a hero – because he just kicked down your door!
Dugmore is MAN-BO – the ultimate action star. He thrashes about the stage in a scathing parody of hyper masculinity complete with Action Man figure – brilliantly pulled out of his fly (it’s a subtle dig at the lack of genitalia in these emasculated dolls) and performs iconic action star moves. Speaking in a (mandatory) aggressive ‘merican accent Dugmore flexes and carves a manly path for himself across the stage all with a steely squint and Fabio-fabulous hair. After receiving the call, MAN-BO is wrenched out of retirement and forced to once again save the day. Director Jessica Clough-MacRae brings the best out of Dugmore as her innovative staging and use of classic clowning techniques shine in Dugmore’s deft hands. His training sequence is absolute genius as every single facial expression and butt flex garners full belly laughs – giving the audience an ab workout as well!
With just the right amount of audience interaction, this grenade keeps ticking along in a tightly written, edge of your seat plot. It’s impossible to not laugh throughout – Dugmore leans in to the character, walking stiffly as though burdened by his muscles, dashing everything against the wall when he’s finished with it, miming helicopters, parachutes, and dirt bikes so convincingly you’ll feel like an extra on the set. In fact, Dugmore relies on a host of audience members to round out his story and gets them onstage in a gentle but hilarious way every time. Tackling the one-dimensional traits applied to action heroes in MAN-BO‘s roilling noooooooooo called out every time someone dies and sharply declaring a nameless female character as aiding his story alone, the show lands an intelligent punch of cultural criticism right on the writer’s room’s nose.
Dugmore is a delight to watch and MAN-BO is a rollicking, fast paced action movie heightened to highlight the harm that a lack of nuance can do. It’s ironic, as Dugmore’s performance is perhaps the most nuanced in Fringeworld 2021 – he executes perfect clowning and mime to create sympathy for a non-existent dog, changes his voice and through ridiculously bad costuming and accents imagines a full cast of characters, flawlessly switching from the Colonel to MAN-BO to the Russian with aplomb. MAN-BO is a macho, cheesy, cultural cringe of hypermasculinity that cracks with wit and silliness. Dugmore’s acting skills are second to none and I would happily press rewind as soon as the tape is over – you’ll want to see this show over and over again!
You can catch the hottest action star on the planet HERE
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