Men in the Cities, Traverse Theatre, review: A splintered snapshot of modern masculinity

Edinburgh Festival 2014: An important, zeitgist-pricking piece from Chris Goode, one of the UK's most interesting theatre-makers

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The Independent Culture

Chris Goode's powerful, impassioned and densely written new show takes place in the immediate aftermath of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich in May 2013.

It's one of two senseless deaths that frame Men in the Cities; the other is the suicide of a young gay man called Ben.

Goode's last work at Edinburgh was the uniquely touching Monkey Bars for which he interviewed groups of 7 to 10 year olds about their lives and the world around them, then had adult actors speak their words.

This, a collaboration between Goode's company and the Royal Court, is another state-of-the-nation piece but also something quite different; a one-man show of many voices in which Goode himself, a bear of a man in a hoodie and suit, stands at a microphone and plays, compellingly well, a convincing cast of urban males.

Among them is Rehan, a newsagent who doesn't understand the headlines anymore; Jeff, an old soldier who finds himself wondering if Rigby's killers had a point; Rufus, a 10-year old who is addicted to tween boy porn; and Graeme, a pensioner struggling with the idea he might be gay. They all have something in common.

They all feel alone, their lives spattered to a greater or lesser degree with sex and violence. They are all damaged, depressed, lonely and repressed, grieving, yearning or hurting.

This, then, is a splintered snapshot of modern masculinity, or at least its dark side. No happy-go-lucky Festival Dads here, which is not to say that Goode does not lighten the overarching bleakness with the odd well-timed joke here and there.

To use the words of Rigby's killers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale as a jumping-off point to talk about the whys, wherefores and whithers of modern manhood is a bold gamble, which pays off.

A section which also attempts to weave in Woody Allen, Philip Seymour Hoffman's overdose and Flight MH370 feels gratuitous.

In the final segment, Goode makes an audacious play to push beyond the bounds of just another Fringe monologue with an explosive rant which suggests there could be a killer inside every man.

It's a committed performance and if it doesn't quite take flight in the way he intends, this is still an important, zeitgist-pricking piece from one of the UK's most interesting theatre-makers. 

To 24 August (0131 228 1404)