An honest and frank exploration of female sexuality, Manwatching is written by an anonymous playwright for the Royal Court. She has chosen to remain anonymous, refusing the credit for what is a unique and exciting piece of work. This is for fear that she will be forever associated as a “sex woman” if her identity is revealed. There’s a certain freedom to her anonymity: the play is highly personal in the information it discloses and it’s understandable that the writer might not wish to throw any preconceptions about her into this discussion on female sexuality. However, running through the play is a frustration at female inequality, sexually and in the freedoms of speech awarded to men.
Manwatching is a performed by a “reasonably attractive” male comedian, a different performer each time. On this occasion, Marcus Brigstocke is the performer. He, like all the other performers of this play, has never seen or read the script before. There has been no time to rehearse; this is just the text and the reader. In using a male performer, the writer manipulates and plays on discrepancies in attitude between the male and female voice. Brigstocke constantly turns to the different areas of the audience in the Roundabout, looking audience members in the eye as he delivers this intimate monologue. From time to time he laughs out loud as he’s reading, and we laugh too – in fact the Roundabout is filled with laughter for the majority of the production. With a less talented performer, Manwatching could fall apart; structurally the play is a little unsound at present.
It’s clear that this is still a work in progress, but even so, Manwatching has raw emotion in it. Whilst the script – and Brigstocke’s bewildered frown, at points – are comical, there’s an underlying sense of discontent. Lucy Morrison’s dramaturgy, with the help of a range of practitioners, weaves niggling fears and comments into the production. The writer’s mother tells her that she should be thankful that she wasn’t raped, when she complains that a former flame was pressuring her for sex. It’s statements like that that make plays like Manwatching so important. I think everyone should see this play.
Manwatching is playing at Roundabout @ Summerhall on 19 and 21 August. For more information, visit the Summerhall website.