Pros: Some interesting thoughts on under-interrogated parts of media and culture.
Cons: It never goes far enough to be the rallying feminist cry you want it to be.
The show starts from the premise that it is somehow awkward for our three male performers (Joe Sellman-Leava, Michael Woodman, and Theo Fraser) to call themselves feminists. This is partly because of complex social issues and partly due to their own failings. The men spend the entire show pondering sexism in the world around us and of their role in it. Whilst self-reflection is admirable, the effect of this cagey, equivocal mood is somewhat underwhelming and comes across just a teensy bit patronising. So whilst I Think I’m A Feminist comes from a good place, this non-committal, “I don’t have all the answers” sentiment feels somewhat lacking in courage yet still self-congratulatory.
There are however some effective moments, ones that truly make you think. One such moment is where Woodman discusses the last cabinet reshuffle and the way all the incoming female ministers were objectified. He goes on to lambast ‘positive discrimination’ whilst images of the so-called ‘male, pale and stale’ majority that make up the cabinet, flash up next to the new female ministers, neatly underlining the holes in this argument.
The section of “I like my women like I like my …” one-liners was strong but it stopped before it reached its threatening crescendo, before the real point actually was made. The opposite is true in other sections such as the ‘Anti-rape Wear’ advert where the concept is overlaboured, becoming less and less effective with each wasted line.
Visually, there are points of interest with light boxes, projections and even a flashing dildo populating the stage over the course of the show. However, these feel a little like distractions to compensate for the lack of cohesion and the needlessly didactic style that dominates the piece. The bottom line of all the sections that explain and dissect gender-based scientific studies is that men are no better than women; little boys and little girls are equally valuable. I don’t know about you, but I knew that already.
Perhaps the main problem with the piece is that it felt like it was preaching to the choir. Maybe in a different setting, in patriarchal institutions like working men’s clubs, feminist principles wouldn’t seem so obvious, they might be revolutionary. It is the statement of these principles as revelations, rather than as accepted fact, that is the principle contributor to the feeling of condescension that hangs over this piece.
Now I’m not saying that men shouldn’t make plays about feminism. This summer I saw Unbound Production’s Travesti at the Edinburgh Fringe, a stunning piece in which six male actors recreate women’s experiences of sexual assault. But I Think I’m a Feminist just falls short and quite often misses the point. One such occasion is when Sellman-Leava blames himself for not being with his loved one when they were sexually assaulted. His focus is on the fact he was not there to prevent the attack, with no discussion lain at the feet of the man who committed the attack in the first place – a shame.
Disappointingly, the show ends up being more about the men’s journey of self-discovery and ultimately their own self-loathing rather than women’s issues. For Worklight Theatre, it seems to be enough that they are men talking about feminism whereas I take this as a given, so I really wanted something more than the watered-down notions they were offering.
Written and performed by: Joe Sellman-Leava, Michael Woodman, and Theo Fraser
Producer: Worklight Theatre with New Diorama Theatre
Technical Manager: Sam Hollis-Pack
Booking Info: This production has finished its run