Lad written and performed by Rhys Dunlop and Alan Mahon, is clever and so contemporary, with its jokes and jibes about male identity, that you might be overhearing it in the pub. Steve, our singular homo sapiens species, is up for examination. With the word suggesting ‘wise man’ our upright biped is soon displaying signs of anxiety as the things he thinks he knows start to unravel and the terms and conditions traditionally taken up seem to be proving that he is not such a wise man after all.
Of course our biped is never alone, not without Vic, his mate – buddy, wingman or side-kick or go-to – so with all that support in place how can our man about town feel vulnerable, less alpha, more apologetic? Dunlop and Mahon capture these seemingly loutish lads and deliver physically energetic performances and unravel such things at a quick fired pace with dialogue that is snappy, witty and revealing about this pack mentality.
Steve is getting ready for his Best Man speech – no problem after all is that not what he his? If for a moment he’s unsure about that his prime mate is there to remind him to be totally cock sure of himself, after all he is alpha, he is a stag and a prime example of the species – and suddenly Steve feels good about himself again – and as Vic points out ‘ a good feeling can only be an erection’. Sorted! So food, sex, fornication, beers with the lads, endless pics of conquests and shallow conversation keeps them grounded.
As he thinks of the groom, dog walking or wedding planning, the only response can be derision and Maids of Honour must surely be there for ‘planting the parsnip’, or ‘ramming the bishop’ – familiar exchanges – familiar fodder for his best man speech. To remain strong the lads must never take into account self reflection, remorse, doubt, guilt and most importantly, feelings. As Dunlop and Mahon’s play starts to unwind we see that such behaviours are those that will not let these primates rise up to any interesting level.
The writing in Lad is bold and the scatter-gun approach of thoughts and ideas is both fun and relentless and that starts to make the joke wear thin until we can see through the masculine mask and find a worried lost man not sure how to make the next beneficial move. The lack of honesty and emotional intelligence is searing as Steve admits to being at a loss, as he realises that women too have a voice and feelings that are like his, complex and confusing – and that is ok. Feelings are hard to navigation and they don’t just reside in your shorts. They can also shed a light on human need and behaviours, and evaluating them might bring the best out in you and your mates. Steve redeems himself with a Power Ranger anecdote in his wedding speech that makes you realise the pen is mightier that the sword and it makes him realise that Best Man is up for grabs.
All credit to Dunlop and Mahon for Lad is an important play for our times, where male identity is under scrutiny and this play might make the lads wise men and grasp their true selves – and that is good place to start.
CAST and CREW
Written and performed Rhys Dunlop & Alan Mahon
Directed by Thomas Martin
Associate Director Cathal Cleary
Lighting Cillian McNamara
Sound Ekaterina Solomantina
Set Design Martin, Dunlop & Mahon
Movement Bryan Burroughs
Set Builder Stephen Lockhart
Lad will be running at The Forge, Vault Festival, Waterloo till 8 March. For tickets and more information please visit vaultfestival.com