Manpower, brought to you by Alister Lownie and Katherina Radeva of Two Destination Language, is a self-advertised “politically complex commentary” on the subject of “Britain’s working men over the last 40 years”.
The discussion of politics within this production is not particularly complex, however, with a predictable agenda that made it feel more like an anti-Brexit rally than a piece of theatre. Whilst Manpower raises several interesting discussions surrounding British nationalism, classism, and capitalism, these issues were explored in a mediocre fashion, denying the discussions the nuance and depth that they deserved. Between Lownie’s use of clichéd idioms, such as “beggars can’t be choosers” and Radeva’s sarcasm (which lost its comedic effect after the first 10 minutes), Manpower just felt like a regurgitation of public opinion, lacking in originality and potentially more suited to an online forum than a creative outlet.
This being said, the production does offer an innovative consideration of masculinity through the framework of female desire, which sees British men exoticised and objectified by Bulgaria-born Radeva, who admires these men for their “physically gifted children” and “steady pay-packets”.
Manpower opens with Lownie launching into a curious monologue, giving an extensive analysis of hi-fi cables and thickness of vinyl records, to draw attention to the practical knowledge typical amongst skilled labourers. He is aptly dressed in a lumberjack plaid, well suited to the forestry set involving several pieces of chopped wood, and a turntable to the back of the hall.
Lownie’s construction of a wooden shed in the background of Radeva’s speech on the economy, was well-crafted and a clever use of imagery, that could also be seen in his creation of a wooden border between himself and Radeva – a nuanced allusion to Brexit which was both symbolic and effective, if only they had explored more of this metaphorical positioning!
The music within this production was also thoughtfully selected, with a personal favourite being “Stairway to Heaven” during Radeva’s satirical commentary on “hardworking Poles” who are faultless besides the fact of being “not British”.
All in all, if you fancy attending a rally-esque production – complete with political discussion at the end – then Manpower is definitely a show for you. However, if you are generally tired with the Brexit conversation starters, then perhaps you’d better sit this one out!