Men In The Cities
A Chris Goode & Company production in association with Royal Court Theatre.
Review by Sarah Robertson
I love a good one person show. There is something so thrilling and compelling about them; particularly when many voices and stories are captured and told by that one presence. Chris Goode’s “Men In The Cities” was a great piece of storytelling and his deftness at painting just enough to tell you about his characters was a real treat. His delivery was strong but easy, with descriptions of people and scenarios that were incredibly filmic. I could really envision the different men within the play; The young couple Ben and Matthew, 10 year old Rufus, Geoff, Graham and others…all of these characters were given enough description and clarity that they became real but to me they all had the sense of an “everyman.” Their stories were unique to them but also not so unfamiliar. Not so uncommon was this thread of loneliness, disappointment, fear and anger. “People are on loneliness like some people are on dialysis.”
The set itself was sparse; pretty much just Goode stood by a microphone with a number of fans behind him, that for most of the show were still. This was effective in my opinion. It put the emphasis entirely on the storytelling and the light design by Katherine Williams was perfectly matched to the tone of the work.
There were some more frenetic moments where everything was amplified; the fans whirring, Goode’s voice loud and shouting obscenities, which felt like poetry written on a public toilet; awful but beautiful.
My favourite moment in the show was a story delivered from the narrator’s perspective about when he goes home with a friend called Eddie. It intercut that tale and in parallel spoke of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last hours, a story of Woody Allen and his daughter and flight MH370 with a backdrop of Snow Patrol’s “Run.” It’s crescendo was heartbreaking and whirling and empty and was utterly the most powerful within “Men In The Cities.”
There was a real beauty in Goode’s words and his way of storytelling was so very easy to be swept up in but I guess this is my “But” moment. I feel like the play could benefit from some pruning. It’s not a long play (I think just shy of 90 minutes) but it felt too long. I felt as if some of the material in the last 30 minutes didn’t add anything new and a scene where the character Brian rants to an angel in the street felt too jarring and too noisy…Which could be the point of that moment for that character but it didn’t work for me. There were also certain aspects I didn’t quite “get” what was trying to be said. Is it that “there is nothing…it’s all junk” as one character espouses? Or is it that we are all seeking for meaning, seeking to be connected yet finding ourselves unheard and untethered from the world we exist in?
The play takes it’s title from a piece of work by Robert Longo; a piece of art that the young Rufus within the play goes and looks at. It is of male bodies contorted and flailing. And that is the essence of the story to me and where it’s real strength lies; pulling open this idea of what it means to be a man and taking a look inside. There is no easy answer.
Men In the Cities is on at The Royal Court Theatre (London) until 1st August.
© Sarah Robertson 2015
Sarah is a poet and playwright who also does the 9-5 thing at Canary Wharf. A film buff with a penchant for 70s/80s horror, she is also interested in writing theatre that deals with social issues and the dark side of human nature. She is an associate artist of Shaky Isles Theatre and occasionally can be found shooting the breeze at thedirkesthour.blogspot.co.uk