Pros: A topical issue – men’s mental health and the influence of toxic masculinity – that invites further discussion and suits a one-man play dynamic.
Cons: The first 20 minutes feel less tight and less thematic; some sub-plotting could be cut.
James is a single man in his mid-thirties, sorting his childhood possessions in the attic of the family home, prompted by his mum’s fresh start with irritating new man Roger. Writer and performer Craig Malpass brings all these characters to life, as well as James’ maths teacher and the school bully, to paint a picture of 15-year-old angst and awkwardness – an age none of us would return to in a hurry. Teenage James feels hopelessly inadequate next to the macho guys in the PE changing rooms at school, and completely ignored by his emotionally distant dad, yet he doesn’t realise his world is about to turn upside down.
Malpass has blogged a lot about toxic masculinity, mental health, and how difficult it is to start a conversation on these themes. The Spider Glass gives plenty of relatable pop culture references to contextualise things: James discusses lads’ mags, makeshift radio shows on cassette player recorders, Four Weddings-era Hugh Grant and Only Fools and Horses. However, Del Boy isn’t on a par with the editor of FHM in terms of promoting dodgy attitudes towards women and consent, as James proves (‘it’s fine to grab her by the hair’), and those attitudes haven’t gone away – they’re just on the internet, instead of the printed page.
Though James’ monologue is conversational, aided by the chatty ‘radio show’ he plays, the script conjures up some poetic moments in the everyday: turning up the TV volume, ‘green bars stacked up like dominos’, for one. In comparison, some of the plotting details, like a health scare, added unnecessary complications for a 50-minute piece.
The Spider Glass is a promising play that men (and women, and non-binary people) of all ages can reflect on, particularly teens. With some minor adjustments to the plot pacing and the trimming of extra detail, the play would have extra resonance.
Author: Craig Malpass
Director: Joshua Cooper
Producer: Craig Malpass
Box Office: 0131 226 0000
Booking Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/spider-glass
Booking Until: 25 August 2018