A story of toxic masculinity and the consequences of media-fuelled body ideals, Meathead tells the story of the gym lifestyle gone too far. Mikey (Auryn Jones), is a wannabe bodybuilder whose muscles are growing whilst his life is stagnating. He complains throughout the play about his lack of money, small apartment and girlfriend, Katrina, (played by Rachel Cannon) who he feels will leave him to return to her well-off husband. We first meet the two in their bed, with Mikey complaining about Katrina’s smoking habits, remarking “why would you go to the gym if you’re gonna put that shit in your body”, something that becomes an ironic statement when by the end of the play he is fuelling his gym addiction with steroid.
Throughout the show, the dynamic between the two is slightly off, possibly due to Mikey’s insecurity in their relationship. Mikey is grumpy throughout and his jokes don’t quite land. Cannon does well to hold the two up and is very engaging to watch: she is sweet and funny but keeps her own when Mickey is harsh and rude to her. We see their relationship breakdown due to Mikey’s fears which causes them to argue constantly. As she pulls away Mikey turns his obsession to the gym, fuelled by his friend Phil. The duo’s overtly macho dynamic is comical as well as representative of toxic male friendships; between chest bumps, the two are pushing each other to the edge with Phil constantly berating Mikey’s gym ability and eventually convincing him to buy steroids. Despite the rather awkward start, Phil’s character develops into an entertaining character and by the end of the play Brindley had the audience laughing at every joke.
Mikey’s rising anger throughout the play due to an increase in testosterone and frustration at his erectile dysfunction is a metaphor for male aggression in the face of changing ideas of manhood. The ‘Noir’ scene summed this up perfectly;it felt odd and out of place at first, but when we see Mikey’s reaction to his “failure” and the contrast of this ‘modern-day’ man to the one he is depicting, we are given a glimpse into his downfall and the struggle he is facing.
His treatment towards the women as the play develops also changes. Leah (played by Gabriela Cisack) whilst not having a prominent role, plays her scenes in the play well- her extravagant tales and endearing stupidity make her one of the best characters, adding fun to the play when things sometimes became awkward or too serious. Mikey’s response to Leah at the beginning of the play, when compared with the end, highlights the change within him. He originally plays off Leah’s lies as silliness and a joke shared between him and Gabriella (played by Olivia Taylor-Goy), but by the end of the play he is cruel to Leah (openly mocking her in front of the small group of friends) and rude to Gabriella.
Mickey spends his time between the gym and home, creating a dichotomy between his success as a man at the gym and his failure as a man in his bedroom. The one night out to a bar ends with him going home with Gabriella. The small set made a play that had several different locations difficult to flow but it was the constant cutting of scenes through other acts that was the biggest impediment. Cuts between each scene were long and even scenes that didn’t need to be cut were, so they felt undeveloped and simply too short; they felt like they had stopped before they’d even gotten started.
The play ends unresolved after Gabrielle leaves Mickey’s apartment and Mickey is left (once again) frustrated and angry. When he picks up the needle once more, the audience is left to wonder what he will choose and whether there even is a choice that can help him escape these toxic ideas of masculinity.
Writer/Co-Director: Charlie Crook
Co-Director: Kitty Richardson
Producer: Zoe Cullen
Assistant Producer: Chae Song
Designer: Luke Roy Bryan