Monday, 14 January 2013

Impotent! - review

Written by: Jessica Lorimer (@JessLorimer3)

Lion and Unicorn Theatre, London

Black and white staging leaves no room for grey areas in Matt Reed’s Impotent! According to Reed ‘Impotence is big business right now.’ As a female, perhaps I’m not best placed to assume the feelings that impotence can cause; judging by my Junk E-mail folder, Reed is correct about it being a big business. If you’re watching the production in the hope that it can give you any insight into the psychology behind impotence, you might be sorely disappointed.

With Helena Blackman as the fairly two dimensional Dr Lane (a psychologist, specialising in the treatment of impotent men) and a cast of chaps prepared to bare all (thankfully not literally!) the show gets underway with a fairly promising start.

Don Cotter, as the naive Keith, puts in a solid performance that any audience can empathise with. A man whose wife left him for his ‘flashy’ brother in law who presumably doesn’t wear anoraks, Keith’s problem is low self esteem. It’s perhaps not unusual when Keith reveals that his job as the ‘Weetabix Crumb Sweeper’ at the Weetabix factory is safe, because unlike the machine that could do it so fast that it ‘blew up’, they haven’t got to worry about Keith because he’s ‘never going to go fast enough for that to happen!’ Dr Lane’s smug smiles and revelations to her friend that she works with a ‘bunch of dysfunctional men’ show that perhaps she’s not as sympathetic as she could be about Keith’s psychological problems.

Photo: Nadia Shash
Indeed the unsympathetic doctor has a motley crew of patients; the un-flashy Keith; attractive but arrogant (and impotent) Saul; stereotypical public school boy Gareth; camp Joseph and quite frankly, rude Gordon. All show that impotence can affect everyone. Yes that’s correct, even Gordon (Neil Stewart) with his Cambridge education, ability to talk over everyone about Politics and irritating habit of calling Dr Lane, ‘Zoe’. I’m amazed that he was able to discover that he was impotent, but as his experience with Anya, a Russian prostitute (played spectacularly by Jessie May) shows, he has ‘about as much impact as your 1990 bomb’. Similar in fact to the play itself.

This is unfortunate, because as Reed writes in the programme, "if you can’t get humour or poignancy from that subject matter [impotence] you should have your quill and parchment confiscated." Awkward, although perhaps not as awkward as Saul’s declaration of love for Dr Lane. Transference is something that counsellors and psychologists are trained to deal with in a professional manner, however Dr Lane’s screaming fit and expletives are perhaps not strictly textbook.

There are although, brief, light-hearted moments. Doctor’s assistant Kelly (Rebecca Crookshank) and boyfriend Tommy (Randall Lyon) bring moments of hilarity into the group ‘meditation’ session. Tommy’s hypothesis that the men are just “afraid of minge” and that they should just get over it, is welcome, and Kelly’s big heels, big hair and backchat are flashes of colour in an otherwise drab setting.

With moments of tenderness that are marred by unnecessary quips and a lack of sensitivity on the subject matter, Impotent! can be an uncomfortable but straightforward viewing. As Saul eloquently puts it, “all of our problems are entirely self taught”. Well, if I ever come across a man who is unfortunate enough to experience impotence, I’m going to refer him to my Junk Mail folder. After all, they seem pretty sympathetic and certainly less of a drain on the taxpayer than the NHS approach.

This production runs until 26 January 2013. 
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You briefly mention some "lack of sensitivity of the subject matter" but this is hardly enough to warrant two stars. Overall your review doesn't really give much criticism at all. Could you better clarify what in your opinion was particularly poor about the show?