Manpower: Vinyl, Anger and DIY
Q&A with Two Destination Language
Set to the music of the forty years pre-Brexit, Manpower looks at the changing male roles that led to the cry ‘we want our country back’ and sets about reclaiming the little things: the right song, the right bolt for the job, the everyday pleasures of the working man… especially those that aren’t working now.
Two Destination Language is made up of Kat and Alister and they took time out of rehearsals to offer an insight into their work.
- Manpower is theatre that explores gender. Why did you choose this as a subject?
Gender is only the most obvious of the divisions in our society. It’s obvious because it’s a division that comes to matter early. We learn early about this difference: it’s on television, at school, in the roles we see around us every day. Its continued importance as a divider, in the 21st century, seems rather strange. We wanted to focus on men, because while politically and artistically there has been lots of work about women, there seemed to be far less interest in the complex changes which have taken place for men over our lifetimes. That’s changed a bit in the past year, with several more interesting theatre pieces playing with ideas around masculinity, which is great to see!
- Can you talk us through the creative process and how the show came to include the Brexit?
We began with some physical play. Alister sawed wood. It was sexy and pathetic, and became more ridiculously sexy and pathetic as Kat, on stage, directed and soundtracked his efforts. That wasn’t a show so much as a starting point which contained so much of what we wanted to explore. Ideas about gender are tied into ideas about work, about power, about the physical body. As we worked on the piece, we began to play with the sheer difference that the term ‘man’ encompasses: differences in strength, age, politics, ethics, sexuality, culture … it was almost meaningless in its vagueness at the same time as being fundamental. And we kept coming back to the phrase ‘being a man’, which doesn’t always get applied to males. There was something more than a division between us and them going on. When it came to premiering our show, last year, it was very much about us: our experiences of men and work and power. It was sweet and comfortable, and it responded to the interests we had at the time, feeling of our present. Then, after June’s referendum, we quickly realised that the version of the show we had made wasn’t relevant in the same way. Politics had changed, and it felt like we needed to adapt the piece too. So we’ve been working in the rehearsal room to ensure that we’re making the most of speaking to audiences at this moment in time.
- What role does music play in Manpower? How does it relate to gender?
Perhaps the most obvious thing to start with is a few names: Dolly Parton, Bruce Springsteen, Dusty Springfield, Bob Dylan. None of them has music in the show, but gender is definitely part of what their music encompasses (and in a more interesting way than the Spice Girls or Boyzone). Their work is, to some extent, a performance of gender. In our show, we use music to evoke ideas about gender, but we also use vinyl records and play them on a hi-fi. We’re interested in the time and money that goes into creating a vinyl collection and enjoying it, as well as in the content of the records we play. At the same time, music is a boundary in the simmering tensions between the performers on stage!
- How was Two Destination Language formed? How did you meet?
We met on a workshop, and were each struck by the ways in which the other spoke about their work. It was apparent we had lots of crossover in our interests, so we tried making something together on a residency. It was just an experiment, but we realised the potential for working together, and haven’t looked back! We came up with the name shortly before we were appointed resident artists at our home in Salisbury Arts Centre, where we’re still based five years later.
- Who is your gender role model?
That is really hard. Being unable to answer it was one reason we wanted to make the show: we knew good teachers, good writers, good business leaders, but couldn’t put our finger on what a man we admired for being a man was — or a woman we admired for being a woman. The complexity of that is why it felt right to make the show.
- Why should we see your show?
It’s a response to the challenges of being a man in today’s society. There is anger, sweat and laughter as we explore the last 40 years from an unusual perspective, sound-tracked by songs from those years.