Two Destination Language’s devised piece, Manpower, might have started life in 2016 as an examination of masculinity, but it says just as much about modern Britain and Brexit.
In a series of lectures, Katherina Radeva plays a possibly predatory Bulgarian and Alister Lownie as an oh-so moderate English man. In this way they explore the perceived roles of men and work since the mid-1970s.
Lownie sets the tone for his character with a purposefully tedious speech on the necessity of getting the proper hi-fi equipment. From then on his role is reduced to that of a DJ, spinning records to accompany Radeva, and a handyman, erecting a garden shed and then building a wall with the logs and wooden branches that are strewn around the stage.
Radeva’s monologues provide a deeply cynical and darkly hilarious take on British masculinity since the time of Thatcher. She pointedly twists perspective, talking of men as passive creatures, hipsters: a “problem”.
The building of a wall is a bit too pat a visual metaphor for the wall which Britain is building around itself. In this regard it’s a bit underwhelming. Yet in the light of the Kavanaugh hearing, it takes on a new resonance – it feels like a representation of the wall that powerful and predatory men have always built to protect themselves and their view of the world.