Written by an anonymous woman. Performed by an unprepared man.
“So I think it’s fair to say that most women almost definitely do masturbate. We just wait to discuss it until we’re in an oddly anonymous but public situation like this one.”
A funny and frank insight into heterosexual female desire, read out loud by a man. ‘MANWATCHING’ begins with a male comedian being given a script they have never seen before. They read the script out loud, sight unseen, in front of an audience. This is a show about what one woman thinks about when she thinks about sex with men.
There is not enough explicit sex chat on the stages of our nation’s fine theatres (is probably what the exec team at the Royal Court said when commissioning this play). I wholeheartedly concur, and very much enjoyed the frank and unashamed nature of the piece.
It is an interesting concept, which was surprisingly and unwittingly mirrored by the play Locker Room Chat that was on the following day. In every performance on its tour, a different comedian (in this case it was Seann Walsh, who had been gigging on the comedy stage earlier that day) is presented with an envelope containing a script by an anonymous woman, discussing the nature of her sexuality.
Sight unseen the poor guy has to read out this missive, where freed from the shackles of embarrassing notoriety, this woman can bare all. Considering what he was being asked to do, Walsh did extremely well, and played the whole thing quite straight. Understandably nervous, he pretty much just read it out, with very little cringing and laughter (and a couple of charming moments where he couldn’t stumbled over words and the over-educated audience helpfully shouted out the correct pronunciation!)
I don’t know whether his brief from the producers was to keep it sensible as he did. Certainly I can see a world where a comedian would really run with the opportunity, gurning and giggling over the content of what they were asking. However, this would turn what is actually an important expression of female sexuality into more of a My Dad Wrote a Porno laugh fest, and the message of the show would be lost.
We hear lovely tales about the first time this anonymous sister confessed to one of her friends that she masturbated, who then admitted it too, and together they made it their mission to facilitate other girls’ ‘coming out’. We were also privy to the extreme and peculiar fantasies she concocts when having sex with men in order to get off, and the minefield of whether it is ok to do this when shagging her husband.
By putting these intimate and rarely spoken female thoughts into the mouth of a man, it invites men into that conversation in a way that the Vagina Monologues (for example) doesn’t. My boyfriend said that where the Vagina Monologues made him feel like his presence was merely tolerated, this production made him feel included, and as if he was being pulled into a warm hug.