In her collaboration with NSDF X Spotlight and the Brighton Fringe festival, Evening Standard Nominee Caitlin Magnall-Kearns attempts an incisive critique of masculinity as it stands—or rather, lumbers—today. In Doody, Niall Kerr is a man obsessed. Since the angst and shunning he experienced after auditioning for his grade school’s production of Grease, his delusions, though they haven’t matured, have only multiplied.
He fetishises ambition and success, yet blames his mother for the high aspirations she has had for him since childhood. While assured of his potential for stardom, he resents those whom he believes thwarted his dream, and seeks revenge.
Niall is wrought with the anxieties of masculine performance, and likewise feels trapped by having his successes and ambitions measured against his identity. Aaron Hickland embodies the rage and insecurity that all too often accompany male privilege, yet his serious and adamant performance at times does not seem aware of the comedy of Magnall-Kearns’ writing. Disjointed in purpose, the show doesn’t quite know what it is; are we to laugh at all its cliches? At Niall’s childhood rejection which sent him spiraling into madness, at the hand puppet ‘Handy’ to whom he tells everything, at photographs of women which he’s defaced with red pen hanging behind him, at the mummy issues so prevalent throughout? Or are we to take all these seriously and probe their predictable meanings?
Unfortunately, these questions, and whether Niall’s cliched story is even worth telling when there are far more subtle or self aware ways to critique the detriments of masculinity, are the only questions left after viewing Doody. Though Magnall-Kearns approaches an examination of the reckoning between male roles in neoliberal commodification and traditional masculinities, she fails to overcome the triteness of Niall’s circumstance.
Niall—and Doody itself—are simply not sympathetic nor original enough to incite any new social commentary on masculinity, nor absurd or funny enough to embody a complete parody of toxic masculinity as it promises.
Doody can be streamed from Brighton Fringe until 27th June 2021. Tickets are on sale here.