by Laura Ferguson
His vocal and physical mannerisms remind me of a P. G. Wodehouse character, some large, jowly, red-faced uncle who comes to visit Blandings Castle and is incredibly jovial but likes the sound of their own voice too much. They add little words to every sentence, “yes, yes” and “don’t you know?” or even “Ha! Would you believe it?” and then repeating their previous sentence. The Man exudes this amiability and lulls me into a space of safety. However, this does not last long; once the introduction is over The Man begins his shocking rhetoric. From his imagined podium in Hyde Park, he begins a monologue that does not let up for the entire hour of the show, an incredible feat to see first-hand. Always talking to us, not at us, he dives into touchy areas such as religion, the greed of capitalism, modern narcissism, cultural homogeneity, racism and above all shining a light on our hypocrisy.
The unmasking of hypocrisy is the most important role The Man undertakes’. Yes, the topics are sensitive, but as The Man points out it is my lack of knowledge and thorough understanding which keeps me uncomfortable and squirming in my seat. ‘Do I laugh at the stereotype or the recognition that it is a stereotype?’ ‘Is it OK to laugh?’, ‘How am I being tested this time?’ are just some of the thoughts that trickle through me as he smiles and pauses for brief moments of my own hideous enlightenment.
His clever wordplay also leads to wonderment as I dawn upon hidden connections in my life I had never thought of previously. One 1984 Orwellian point The Man was made about a particular corporation was about the word ‘iris’. It particularly got to me as I extrapolated it and thought ‘Oh! And Iris is the goddess of rainbows and there was a rainbow in their old symbol!’ The running motif of The Man is that we ought to find more moments of true connection in a technophilia world. Leaving these tendrils dangling for me to find on my own is a masterful use of audience manipulation. The Man uses them to keep me from wallowing in a mire of despair from how terrible my first-world privilege is for developing countries. However, that point is lanced into me over and over again so that I won’t forget it.
Though he promises no answers, The Man does give us some very hilarious possibilities. His use of satire for these parts is very reminiscent of the 18th-century pamphlets produced by Jonathan Swift, a tongue-in-cheek way of relinquishing the world of it’s problems. In saying that, The Man’s use of cultural references spans several centuries from Swift, Dryden and even a hint of Goethe, right through to the pop culture monster that is Tom Cruise, there is something for everyone to enjoy and laugh at.
Leaving, I floated down the street, feeling cerebrally unattached to the world around me. I feel good, light from laughing but, internally, I stare into the abyss of what I don’t yet know. How could I improve myself now I had these revelations the show gave me? Where should I start? Once begun, where do the questions end, if ever? And a backdrop of The Man’s yellow and black smiling face pervades these thoughts. He’s always smiling.
The Man is on at Cavern Club from Tuesday 28th of February – Friday 3rd of March. You can find tickets at www.fringe.co.nz