MEN’S ISSUE. Directed by Heinrich Reisenhofer, with Stuart Taylor, Kurt Schoonraad and Nigel Pierce. At the Baxter Theatre until Saturday. TYRONE AUGUST reviews.
LOCAL STAND-UP comedians Stuart Taylor and Kurt Schoonraad once again make themselves the focal point of their latest production. This time they explore their identities as 30-something males in a world in which conventional notions of what constitutes masculinity keep changing.
And, to add some more frisson, they cleverly include radio presenter Nigel Pierce, who is known for being quite forthright in his opinions – not least of which is flaunting his self-confessed status as a metrosexual.
The format they use for the show is also quite smart: think television talk shows like Dr Phil and The Oprah Winfrey Show, combined with publications directed at male readers such as GQ and Men’s Health, and you get the idea. (Or, to quote Schoonraad: “Oprah’ for men, but shallow.”)
Among the issues they explore are home-based gym techniques used by men over the years to stay in shape – some useful, others just plain daft. Taylor and Schoonraad take great delight in demonstrating the top 10 gadgets (remember the hand-gripper craze?).
The audience is also given a lesson in fashion in the segment “Dress for Access”. Pierce obviously relishes the opportunity to demonstrate his fashion sense. This segment relies heavily on a willing participant from the audience, but Pierce pulled it off charmingly on the opening night.
The trio pool their talents in a frenetic cooking demonstration, with the in-your-face title of “Cooking Butch”. This exercise involves various household appliances, and not all of them usually used in the kitchen. The result is visually entertaining, but, of course, completely inedible.
A highlight of the show is a discussion among the three about male grooming, imaginatively called “3 Men Talk”. Predictably, Pierce is in favour of paying close attention to all his body parts (this segment explains why there is an age restriction of 13 on the show).
Schoonraad, on the other hand, is all for the natural look (he refers to those who disregard pedicures and manicures as “real men”). He also dismisses such treatment as wasteful expenditure, and prefers to spend money on cars instead.
His take on the various movie actors who played the role of James Bond is equally outrageous. He mocks Pierce Brosnan as effete and regards Roger Moore as more of a menace in the bedroom than anywhere else. The rugged Daniel Craig, on the other hand, gets the thumbs up.
Schoonraad’s over-the-top performance – in which he takes great delight in playing up to the image of the stereotypical male – makes him the centre of attraction whenever he is on stage. (Is he deliberately trying to recreate the goggle-eyed look made famous by Al Debbo?)
By contrast, Taylor, who is credited as the originator of the idea behind the show, comes across as more subdued than usual. Perhaps he is more comfortable with humour that relies on wit and reflection rather than on the kind of physical comedy that dominates Men’s Issue.
Pierce, though, was just being Pierce. It was the right call to incorporate his real-life role as a radio presenter in the show; instead of coming across as contrived, it makes his contribution more credible and natural. But, inevitably, the carefully cultivated radio persona was always visible.
This time, however, he was more mischievous than brash in his interaction with the audience. This was no insignificant achievement. Those segments relying on unscripted banter could easily have fallen flat, but Pierce effortlessly pulls it off.
Some scenes in the show, though, are over-elaborate. For instance, why invite the audience participant to select from a full range of clothing when he only gets to put on a new jacket? And some of the technical features of the show were, at times, more of a distraction rather than entertaining additions.
More, as gifted comedy director Heinrich Reisenhofer well knows, is not always better – even if the show is an affectionate send-up of the confessional brand of television shows. Budget was obviously no restraint in putting together the show (check out the snazzy vintage wheels on stage).
In any event, Men’s Issue was a fun-filled evening. Amid all the frivolity, there was also some food for thought. Not a bad way at all to spend a night out with the boys.