Ode to Man
Review by Rhys Tarling
Ode to Man is one woman’s (Emma Mary Hall) 14-chapter goodbye to men. She draws from a range of things – personal experience, anecdotes, biology, philosophy, art, history – to channel a black rage and disappointment at men; specifically the antiquated vestiges of masculinity that attempt to impose sense where there is none, and the kind where every social interaction is a zero-sum game of dominance or submission.
It was, at times, supremely uncomfortable, right up until a point where I wanted to look the other way. It could get skin-crawlingly unnerving, like Kanye’s inhuman screams of fear in “I Am a God” or Tetsuo‘s agonising, gory transformation from a city-sized gob of angry humanoid meat into an incandescent new universe.
I wasn’t entirely sure I liked an Ode To Man, most of all because its honesty goes for the jugular and the attempts at humour didn’t quite temper the anger as much as I suspect was intended. And yet I’ll be damned if I can recall a more creatively executed, highly indulgent, yet still focused one-person show.
There’s no real story to speak of, which Hall makes a clear point of very early on. The point is something to the effect of “Don’t find a chronology where there isn’t any.” And for a one-person show, yeah, that’s the best way to go. Maybe it’s just a personal preference, but watching someone try to be about 5 different people for 50 minutes is exhausting.
Instead, consider this a rich tapestry: part stand-up, part history lesson, part lamentation, part primal scream. It’s all made even richer by Prue Clark‘s direction, Chris Wenn‘s sound design, and Lindsay Cox‘s animation and projection, which adds quite a bit of personality to Hall’s already charismatic presence.
Ode To Man is highly ambitious, excellently executed, and fearless. My personal feelings toward it are amorphous, strange. All I know for sure is it’s still very much taking up a sizable portion of my mental real estate.
Ode to Man runs until May 6th at The Blue Room Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit the Blue Room website here.