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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Brighton 2010 arrow Masculinity: My part in its Downfall
Masculinity: My part in its Downfall
Published on Monday, 10 May 2010

Matt Rudge's show probably has my favourite title of any in the Festival. And its premise sounds brilliant: after losing half his manhood in a have-a-go-hero incident, Rudge goes on a quest to discover what really makes a man. I was expecting a thought-provoking and entertaining night of stand-up. But sadly, for me, the show didn't live up to the promise.

Don't get me wrong. Rudge is a solidly entertaining comic. He's an easy, watchable performer and his delivery and physical confidence on stage are spot-on. For the first 20 minutes of the show, before he gets to his theme, he runs through a neat set of gags and observations – but it's nothing new coming from yet another conventional male comedian. If you have ever been to a comedy club in a big city on any Saturday night, you've seen this act before, deftly delivered but with the same old subjects: jokes about his backward, provincial hometown, his little nephews saying the funniest things and his daffy mother.

The show's half over by the time Rudge begins his voyage to discover what makes him a man (after suspecting his injury has led to him producing less testosterone). His quest never quite lifts off. I cringed a bit at the exploration of 'going gay', based on internet poll suggestions and the rather spurious and stereotypical suggestion that gay men are more masculine because they have more regular sex.  A highlight, however, is the (strangely oedipal) VT where he arm-wrestles his distinctly alpha-male father.  And he sweetly concludes that being a man means doing what's right for the right reasons, a neat resolution which ties nicely to the bravery that lost him his ball in the first place.

But it seems a little divorced from what he set out to prove, which was how he defined himself as a man – with his various anxieties including having less body hair than his girlfriends.  Of course, it could be that what Rudge is saying here is that how well anyone performs masculinity (or femininity, for that matter) is not as important as being a decent human being. This would be a perfect conclusion for the show, but it seems a little lost and confused here.

This is not a bad act, but it's more of a personal journey into what masculinity means to Rudge himself than anything wider. And that feels like a missed opportunity, because it would be great to see the male-dominated world of stand up explore topics like this in more depth. With solid performance skills, pretty damn cool use of multi-media and a killer idea, there's the potential for a fantastic show here… if Rudge could just man up and give it to us.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.