– by Jen Perry
Presented by 610 Productions, Armour asks us whether men can talk about their feelings. I was deeply intrigued. I study gender at university and am always up for an original and thoughtful discussion of masculinity and its pressures in contemporary Australian society. Unfortunately, this is not what Armour delivered. I sat through roughly 90 minutes of reinforced stereotypical notions of ‘blokeyness’ and how difficult it is for men to conform to what women expect: simultaneous weakness and strength. These are difficult and complex issues, and are not made any easier by trite dialogue and a reductive storyline.
Armour is written and directed by Tom Jeffcote and performed against the backdrop of a boy scout hall in a rural Western Australian community. The story begins relatively simply, becoming increasingly more convoluted towards its conclusion. Suffice to say it’s about four men who are court (or otherwise) mandated to talk about their feelings. In fact, a white board challenges the men to ‘sing their feelings’ if they cannot possibly summon the prose to do so.
The group dynamic is weakly anchored by Matthew Kiely’s portrayal of psychological counsellor Neil, whose wholesome, deer-in-headlights approach is further exaggerated by Ben Weirheim and Danen Engelenberg’s sheer energy as Robbie and Mawkie respectively. Joel Sammels as Quentin provides some comic relief amidst the dramatic outbreaks through his insistence at the stupidity of singing amidst Weirheim’s lamentation of the heinous lack of coffee at a stimulant-free weekend retreat.
The point of Armour, I believe, is a trek into the heart of darkness of these characters. They reveal (and revel in) the worst parts of themselves, framing these problems against their masculinity. I am man: watch me have promiscuous sex, beat my wife and drown my sorrows in illicit drug use. Haven’t we come further than this? In all its dripping sincerity, Jeffcote wants us to believe that these men are more than the sum of their parts and I have to say, I just don’t think they are. A misled effort to tackle the very real and pervasive issues that men face in contemporary society, you’re better off thinking about these topics yourself than going to see Armour.
Warning: This production exhibits violence, drug use, swearing and discussions of sexual and domestic violence. It may be triggering for some viewers. Recommended for audiences 16+.
You can see Armour at The Blue Room Theatre until Saturday, May 9th. A special AUSLAN performance is being held Thursday, April 30th. Tickets range from $15-$25. For more information visit The Blue Room website.
Image taken by Xahlia Jeffcote & Desmond Tan and courtesy of The Blue Room Theatre.