GUEST BLOG: Broken Chair Theatre Company on what it means to be ‘Masculine’

My name is Jak Gray and I work for Broken Chair, a physically-expressive theatre company. We create poor decisions and beautiful moments with people, movement and chairs, take pride in our lack of hierarchy (we have no director) and we want our mistakes to be unforgettable.

We have been creating new work since late 2015, devising physical explorations of thoughts that the spoken word cannot articulate. Our first show, Sonder (2016) marked our professional debut as a company and the realisation of our unique style of movement-based theatre. As of 2017 we are performing and developing our second show, Mimeomia. Our aim for this show is to question the norms of a masculine society whilst opening a discussion, evoking realisation and demanding change.

As young theatre makers we are intrigued with how our society shifts and grows. When discussing potential concepts for our second show, we found a common interest in modern masculinity. As boys interested in theatre, the male members of our company agreed that we do not fit the traditional stereotype of masculine, but does that make us feminine? Moreover, what is masculinity? And how does it affects our self-image and our interactions with peers? These are the questions that formed the basis of Mimeomia.

Mimeomia is a show about five friends and how masculinity is a domineering force in their lives. The original devised performance questions what it means to ‘man up’, and how toxic masculinity affects women as well as men. Worked through a narrative that explores relationships, grievance and sexuality, this is a show that not only explores what it means to be a man, but how this question affects the young people in our society.

We felt that it was important to create a piece about this because we have observed that men can be deemed week when displaying emotion. This leads to situations in which men are intentionally obscuring their worries, thoughts and feelings. As a close group of friends and theatre makers, even we don’t always open up about our emotions, health, and well-being. We struggle to articulate how we feel or believe it is unnecessary baggage to throw on to someone else – perhaps even selfish to do so?

12.5% of men in the UK suffer from a common mental health disorder at some point in their lives, which makes 7 million people. Furthermore, 76% of suicides are male suicides. So, I pose the question, when did it become acceptable for men to not talk about their issues? When did it become necessary for them ignore their mental health to be deemed as a man?

And when did it become acceptable for so many men to take their own lives because they are too scared, too embarrassed and too hurt to speak up? The relationship between young men and masculinity has made them unable to speak up when something is wrong. But does this only affect men? Or does it affect everyone in our society?

With generations struggling to articulate their problems through the spoken word. We (Broken Chair) wanted to use our skillset for a purpose; to use our style of movement-based theatre to give a voice to those who are not talking. We are a big believer in physical theatre and its’ power to express thoughts that the spoken word can’t. After all, isn’t there a famous saying: actions speak louder than words? Physical theatre enables us to embody a symbolic movement style that expresses internal thoughts and feelings. Although some of our physicality is supported by text, the main focus is on the movement and what it implies. We use text to support our movement and contextualise it.

The traditional perception of masculinity has always been a part of our society and culture – being stoic, being a leader, caring for the perfect partner – but need we think of ourselves in these terms? We now have so many ways to express ourselves; we are a part of an amazing diverse society, each of us different to one another, incomparable to another, each of us having a mix of both masculine and feminine traits but perfect for having those. Now is the time to speak up, support one another, love one another and accept one another, because we are braver than ever and we shouldn’t be put to silence.

Let’s #BeOkay.

Mimeomia is on next at The Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton from the 3rd-5th August at 7:30PM. Tickets