Macho Like Me review at Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh – ‘surprisingly few insights’
Approaching 40 and facing pressure from her parents to marry, Korean-American writer and performer Helie Lee’s response was to spend six months living as a man. She thought she might better understand men and the social pressures they face by becoming one. So she cut off her hair, lifted weights, bound her breasts, and took to wearing baggy clothes. But people still read her as female, so she began to examine the way she filled up space, the way she held herself, her posture and her gestures.
A friend filmed the results of her experiment and Lee’s experiences are presented in a show that is part stand-up, part documentary. Macho Like Me dips its toes into some fascinating waters. She touches upon the rise of depression and mental health issues among men, trans-phobia, and the differing pressures placed on men and women by different cultural groups.
But despite her commitment to the experiment, it never feels like Lee has a handle on quite what it is she is trying to achieve and the piece also raises issues about trust and responsibility in such an undertaking. Her insights are surprisingly few considering the amount of effort she put into her transformation. Part of the problem is the format – the jokey projections and the sub-Dave Gorman feel of the piece. Lee isn’t a natural comedian and yet she seems intent on packaging this as a comedy rather than the more complex, inquiring piece it could have been.