Our sell-out premier of Manpower, opening ICIA University of Bath’s brand new Weston Studio, was really well-received and we’re excited to be booking its tour for later this year. Natalia Nicholls wrote a really lovely appreciation of the piece:
What does it mean to be a man? Who shapes our ideas about masculinity and femininity? What happens when we pause and think about the origins of our society’s expectations about appropriate behaviour for men and women? And are we really that different from each other? All these questions are addressed in the passionate and thought-provoking piece of theatre that is “Manpower”.
Two Destination Language invoke familiar images of ordinary men: men barbecuing, men camping, men drinking tea in their gardens, men building skyscrapers and making money, men racing, men who weren’t good at PE, men experiencing failure, men ashamed of themselves. But they do more than that: they challenge these images. They ask: where do these images come from? The performance explores how men and women react to the expectations imposed on them by society through the symbolic act of Alister constructing a house on stage – the most “manly” act of creation. Is it a safe haven, or is it a cage? That is left to the interpretation of the audience.
“Manpower” is not only a show about men – it’s about women as well. Katherina emotionally recounts her experience of growing up – how she had to “man up” in order to overcome the difficulties that life threw at her. Ditching skirts in favour of trousers. Crying at night, but being brave in the daytime. Becoming an independent young woman, finally achieving what she had aspired to her whole life. However, she was surprised to find that she was not happy – she was just as lost as she was before.
Movement also plays an important role in this performance. Through it, the actors explore the relationship between men and women. Are we enemies? Are we friends? Or are we just desperately looking for a means of communication – close, but never really able to understand each other? Can we overcome the distance that is between us? And are words a help or a hindrance in this quest?
Two Destination Language’s answer is simple: to achieve true happiness we need to become comfortable in our own bodies. Masculinity and femininity are just arbitrary notions, that don’t serve our interests at all, but are rather society’s way of exercising power over us. In the end, we are all just humans, with insecurities, regrets and fears. We can only overcome these if we open ourselves to others, embrace our differences and accept that not every man is a tough cowboy, and not every woman is a delicate snowflake. And that’s okay.