Body image takes centre stage
REVIEW: Man Boobs strips back some of the bear facts about body image.
Insecurities, whether physical, sexual or intellectual, destroy confidence and tear people apart. Many a relationship and night of fun has been ruined by our hidden fears.
You might think that ‘down-to-earth men of all shapes, sizes and ages’ – as Victoria’s bear community describes itself – would be immune to such worries. Not at all.
This was the rationale for VicBears choosing a story of two men’s insecurities as their first production, premiering during this year’s Midsumma festivities.
Man Boobs was written by New York City bear J. Julian Christopher and performed in the US and Canada before being brought to Melbourne and adapted for local audiences.
It stars Phil Webster (Spence) and Raymond Lee (Marty) who both spend over an hour on stage during a marathon one-act performance. The drama takes place in the hot and intimate attic at Collingwood’s Kerynia Cafe, designed to epitomise sci-fi geek chic, complete with Star Wars and Dr Who memorabilia.
Events begin when Spence brings Marty home at the end of a good night out, both afire with lust and sensing the beginnings of something more.
Before too long we realise something is amiss as Spence suddenly becomes obsessed with the need to make coffee and distract Marty from his mission to sweet talk him out of his boxers.
Not to be put off, Marty perseveres with renewed vigour (and increasing frustration) while Spence parries each attempt with self-hating put downs and his clear belief that no one could genuinely desire him. Marty reveals a few insecurities of his own as the night progresses to its climax.
Both actors give strong performances, especially notable since this is Raymond Lee’s first dramatic role. He delivers an entertaining portrayal of a playful and sexy truck driver trying to get some action and make a connection.
Phil Webster, a veteran of Hobart Amateur Theatre, puts his heart and soul into revealing the sexy, sweet and neurotic sides of a librarian struggling with a distorted view of himself and secrets he is desperate to keep hidden.
Highlights include a breathtaking animal impersonation; the heartfelt efforts of Marty as he tries time and time again to break through to the man he’s falling for; and an ending that avoids the easy option – demonstrating in the process what the most likely result will be if we let our insecurities take over our lives.
The producer, Jack Chapman, tells me there are no plans to tour or stage Man Boobs interstate, but I hope festival organisers elsewhere do pick it up, if only for THAT animal impersonation.
Find out how you can become involved in VicBears’ performing arts intuitive: vicbears.org.au
Daniel Scoullar is a freelance writer and communications consultant.