Matchstick Piehouse is a new creative arts space in the Deptford/New Cross area. Opened by Matchstick Theatre in 2018, it’s a pair of converted railway arches that serves music, beer, pies and, luckily for us, theatre. It’s currently home to The Institute of Nuts, an otherworldly school-cum-retreat-cum-prison.
E and M run the Institute and the inmates/guests O, P and B must do what they’re told in order to achieve success within the establishment. B arrives for his first day ready to learn how to be a success in the wider world, but slowly realises he doesn’t remember signing up to the Institute. When things start to turn nasty, there doesn’t seem to be any way to leave, as no one is sure how they arrived. Rebellion begins to bubble.
The play deals with toxic masculinity – that which has ‘been established.’ With baby steps we are moving away from traditional gender stereotypes that set up expectations of clothing, character traits and work roles. We’re in a time where we recognise the limitations and expectations of the gender constructions of traditional male and female roles, and how they trap us. But old habits die hard and can leave confusion in their wake, as the characters B, O and P experience when how they are told they should be is at odds with how they are naturally inclined to behave.
B feels forced to fit in, even when he disagrees with or doesn’t understand why certain things are expected of him. There are many of these gender stereotypical traits, and I can’t believe there are too many people out there who could fail to identify with the torment of trying to shape oneself to fit within the gender boxes dictated by the society they inhabit. It’s an important topic that’s good to see being explored onstage.
The stage is set up like a training meeting, a circle of chairs surrounding the actors in the warehouse-like space, all futuristic white and silver and hung with screens; the company couldn’t have found a more appropriate space for the Institute. Screens are suspended in the audience’s eye-line, screening the overlord E’s manifestos and Big Brother judgements on the characters. The ensemble are strong, and create a powerful atmosphere for a small company in a small, clinical space.
I could feel that the company were presenting a show they cared about, and I was moved by the events. Hopefully it will create discussion. One size doesn’t fit all, and it never did. It isn’t hard to help give each other the space to be whoever we are. We all know that freedom to express one’s self freely is at the heart of a healthy mind and happy life and no one benefits from alpha male types imposing themselves on the world at large. Men wearing dresses or women wearing suits doesn’t offend me. Being a dickhead to others over what they want to wear or how they identify themselves, that offends me. It should offend us all.
Directed by: Edwina Strobl
Written by: Mark Daniels
Booking Link: https://matchsticktheatre.com/events/institute-of-nuts/
Booking until: 12th April 2019