NAME any artistic medium, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Grayson Perry has already mastered it – most likely in a pair of highly impractical platforms.
Delving in everything from pottery to fashion, television and architecture across his 20-year career, it seems only natural that this glittering jack-of-all-trades would soon turn his hand to performance art.
Following the substantial stir caused by his channel-4 series ‘all man’ – in which Perry sought out the life-shaping effects of masculinity on Britain’s contemporary hard-men – the Turner Prize-winning artist teetered onto the grand stage of Salford’s Lowry to present his gender-based findings.
After a poignant excerpt from the aforementioned series, the show commenced with what Perry referred to as his own ‘MANifesto’, a humorous yet biting summary of what it really means to be a man in the 21st century.
Taking on the form of a sternly whimsical lecturer, he proceeded to debunk the perils of masculinity in everything from sex and passion to camouflage and road rage: leaving both men and women in the audience chortling in comfortable consensus.
Crafting an unorthodox vein of audience participation, Perry later requested that his onlookers tweet their thoughts on the subject for a theatre-wide debate in the second act, using the hashtag ‘#masculinityis’.
After a brief interlude – as well as a swift costume change – he returned, this time to confront the views of Manchester’s own masculine population.
— Andy Mycock (@andymycock1) November 7, 2016
Others pitched in with a host of more sombre contributions:
— Arthur Whitehead (@ArthurWhitehea6) November 7, 2016
— Moggana Lamerlin (@moggersmerlin) November 7, 2016
Whilst the performer laughed along with a number of these tweets, it’s important to note that each only served to emphasise his ideas on the harmful and often unrealistic expectations placed on modern men: something highlighted, as mentioned, within the sky-high rates of male crime and suicide.
An emotive Q&A with the audience themselves led to Perry subsequently outlining – as is rarely done well – a men’s ‘bill of rights’, in which he thoroughly endorsed the notions of vulnerability, uncertainty and tenderness.
Overall, the brief performance carried a flurry of incredibly important messages. Heart-rending and uplifting, though not without humour, it is an absolute must for any man (or, indeed, woman) who has struggled to live up to society’s nonsensical expectations.
By Emily Igram