Alex Gwyther is a London-based writer and actor. His first one-man play, Our Friends, The Enemy, was selected as part of New Wimbledon Theatre’s ‘Fresh Ideas’ season and premiered in its studio space in 2013. It went on to enjoy sold-out performances at the Edinburgh Festival before embarking on two UK tours. In 2015 it transferred to New York’s Theater Row where it was praised by the New York press.

His second play was commissioned by The Premier League to raise awareness of mental health in footballers. The Cost of a Player toured to all twenty of the Premier League clubs in the 2018/19 football season. His third play Eyes Closed, Ears Covered had its world premiere at The Bunker Theatre in 2017. It went on to enjoy 3 Offie Nominations including Most Promising New Playwright. Alex has finished writing his first feature film and is adapting work for screen.

Ripped is at Underbelly Cowgate 1st – 25th August (not 12th)

Ripped is coming to Underbelly Cowgate what can you tell us about it?

Ripped focuses on Jack’s journey of self recovery after being raped by a stranger in an unprovoked attack. Blaming himself for the attack, he moves away and transforms himself into what he believes is a ‘real man’. The play follows his journey to fit in with a new crowd of friends, whilst desperately trying to keep a lid on his past and hoping no one finds out. It is a story which examines why 96% of all male rape cases go unreported, breaks the stigma attached to male rape and explores the pressures put on young men today to conform to outdated ideals of what a man should be. Ultimately, it highlights there is no definite blueprint model of how to be a man, and there are no ultimate warriors.

Why did you want to write about this subject?

I’ve always wanted to write a play about masculinity and challenge what it means to be a man. The main catalyst came when I was touring a show for 6th formers on sex and relationships and at the end of the show I delivered a monologue revealing that my character had been raped by the alpha male to demonstrate his power over him. Most of the time the students reacted with giggles and laughter and finger pointing. In the subsequent workshops when I asked them if they would laugh like that if it was a girl confessing she’d been raped, they firmly replied No, because it would be a girl! After weeks of performing the monologue to the same reactions it started to get at me a little and that’s when I began to do more research and see the direct association with how we frame masculinity.

How did you research Ripped?

I did a lot of reading on trauma and PTSD, particularly around sexual violence. I read a number of books on masculinity, some comical, some more serious philosophical and psychological. I also read a number of thesis’ on male rape by professors and how this tied in with masculinity. Finally, I spoke to a number of survivors on their insight and personal journeys. I want the portrayal to be as honest, accurate and respectful as possible, so it was vital to have an understanding on the central and wider topics with those who had lived it

Tell us about the character you play?

I don’t want to give too much away but we see multiple versions of Jack. We see what he was like in the past, before the attack, and we watch his journey into the grim depths of destructive hyper masculinity. Overall, he is a good person, funny, naive and quite childlike. He is doing what he feels is the only option he can do. He is backed into a corner and trying his best to stay alive and convince himself he’s ok.

How does it feel to be at Underbelly Cowgate?

Thrilling and nerve-wracking! This is my second time bringing a one man play to the Fringe, my first being in 2013 with Our Friends, The Enemy, and it’s great to be part of such an established and central venue of the Fringe. I’m also glad that Underbelly have seen the importance in the story we’re trying to tell and I can’t wait for it to be part of the commotion surrounding Cowgate.

Why should people come see Ripped?

It is an honest, comical and blistering portrayal of a young man struggling to keep his trauma a secret and fit in at the same time. Audiences should expect to laugh as he tries to adopt these hopeless and unrealistic feats of masculinity, but the drama and emotional turmoil of what Jack is trying to control cannot be avoided, so they should expect to feel shaken and uncomfortable. It is an important story as so many individuals go through their life carrying some sort of burden or trauma who don’t speak out.

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