Review | Laura Money
In Minneapolis, USA there is a room dubbed the quietest room in the world. It’s located at Orfield Laboratories and is so quiet that the longest anyone has been able to bear it is 45 minutes. Minneapolis’ protagonist sees his very own apartment take on the silence of its scientific counterpart in the wake of insensitive and obtuse comments used to invigilate a public shaming against him. As he hides out, waiting for the storm outside to subside he begins to feel the detrimental effects of silence and isolation. What if your thoughts are so heinous you don’t wish to be alone with them? In a blistering examination of cancel culture, the metoo movement, broken masculinity, and the normalisation of hate speech, writer/director/performer Will O’Mahoney exhibits emotional restraint and gives the issues under the microscope depth and gravity. Minneapolis doesn’t claim to have the answers but takes great strides towards a future in which calling out injustice and scruitinising gendered violence is absorbed into our culture – O’Mahoney is at the forefront of the movement and this work is an important rung on the ladder for change.
Minneapolis’ greatest strength is its biting sense of humour. One way to cement serious issues into a collective consciousness is through comedy. O’Mahoney’s humour sits in the awkward millennial camp – he adroitly calls out virtue signalling and the left-wing style of language in which correct terminology often inhibits the actual cause. The result is a hilariously on point, blistering attack on semantics and toxic entitlement that lifts the veil off the audience’s eyes and does so with its finger firmly on the pulse. Directors O’Mahoney and Frances Barbe eke out every bit of the Subiaco Arts Centre main stage – the action begins from behind the audience – a distressed O’Maohney runs after Andrea Gibbs down the aisle stairs until they reach the stage. There’s shouting, pleading, and even a bit of grovelling as O’Mahoney begs Gibbs to take down an incriminating video of him from the internet. O’Mahoney’s language and presentation style is brilliant – he stumbles and stammers over his words, backtracks and placates before a surge of self-righteous anger bursts through him and he lashes out in what we can assume is how he really feels.
The plot is simple – O’Mahoney’s character was filmed by Gibbs’ character saying something terribly offensive about a random woman. At the beginning of the play we are not privy to the content of the tape and have to glean information via clues glittered throughout the dialogue. Gibbs is unflinching in her delivery. Her signature larrikin-like, teasing tone renders the character equal parts infuriating and endearing. As she continues to work with O’Mahoney in a journalistic endeavour to uncover the truth behind hate speech and misogyny she becomes more and more frustrated by his absolute incapacity to take responsibility for his thoughts and actions. Straight, white, cis-gendered men your days are numbered and it is your response to this that will determine how you will help or hinder the process. He holes up in his apartment, moving furniture in frenzied frustration to the thrumming beat of musician and composer Liam Hickey. Hickey’s a master drummer and his clever, roiling soundtrack acts as the pulse of the show – beating faster and faster as things rush to a head. O’Mahoney’s world comes crashing about him as the drumbeats in his head are silent in the crushing quiet of his forced isolation. With all this time for introspection, you’d think he would accept responsibility for what he did – instead he becomes increasingly defensive and manic, seeking advice in the most unlikely of places.
It may seem odd to say, but O’Mahoney’s character is complete in his incompleteness. His speech patterns are as erratic as his thoughts, as he constantly self-edits to appear – for want of a better word – woke. Alongside the philosophical stylings of teenage bicycle food delivery guy Tobias Muhafidin he develops an insular and at times deranged approach to his personal but very public problem. Muhafidin is an absolute delight on stage. A hidden gem, he delivers everything with deadpan hilarity, only becoming vulnerable when pushed. Whilst the dialogue is laugh out loud funny, it twinges with dire recognition of gendered violence and microaggressions. And though these may seem like buzz words the philosophy behind these terms still resonates. As the play progresses we see O’Mahoney as less of a fish out of water, funny male protagonist (one that is comfortingly familiar in its ubiquitous nature) and more of an archaic and potentially toxic attitude that needs to be challenged. Gibbs sums it up in an impassioned speech as iconic as Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech but with more gusto. She expresses the weariness of women. How every single day misogyny wears them down. How it is still their responsibility when it’s clearly about time men stepped up. Gibbs is inspirational in this moment -she delivers her monologue firmly, and with conviction and emotional control, providing gravitas through her dignified tone to an issue that has been slowly gaining traction.
Minneapolis is a highly nuanced and intelligent work that provides humour, philosophy, and introspection. It puts fragile masculinity under scrutiny but even more important than that, it examines the complex relationship between cultural constructs and how to undo them. It is highly frustrating for people to be suddenly called out for something they’ve been doing their entire lives. Internalised prejudice is a sinister thing, and it’s only now that people are being held accountable for it that we can change. Highlighting differing attitudes through intergenerational masculinity, the play is not only of its time but for all time. Works like Minneapolis contribute greatly to the changing narrative and everyone involved should be very proud of this piece.
Minneapolis played at Subiaco Arts Centre from 27th – 31st July 2021