Male suicide is at epidemic proportions, the leading cause of death for men between 20 and 34 in England and Wales, an undiscussed wave of futile waste. Like mental health provisions across the UK, support for young men has been eroded, and the new societies of the 21st century have less use for the strong, silent and stoic men still lionised by those who advocate ‘traditional values’ and roles. The idea of a man is changing, whilst the ideal takes time to catch up.
Sometimes it seems the most common place to see these statistics are when they are needlessly weaponised, used by clueless men’s rights advocates as evidence of feminist blind spots, without acknowledging the potential of gender equality to fix the underlying causes of the pain and suffering. Men who are told not to cry, not to express emotions, to sublimate their desires into unhealthy outlets and to never show weakness. Boys who grow up with stilted relationships to their own feelings, and shame with their inability to fix it. Remember how normal it is that boys are told to not act ‘like a girl’, to ‘man up’ or to be strong. That is a symptom of patriarchy too, an archaic set of rigid gender roles that fail to map on to the modern world.
In the physical theatre workout of 5 Out of 10 Men, these arguments are rehearsed through the story of a young man’s suicide. Its issues are raised simply and without special nuance, its central character a broad cypher for societal concern. It sits within a move towards cultural interrogations of maleness alongside gender in general, whether Grayson Perry’s All Man series for Channel 4 or the Southbank Centre’s BEING A MAN festival. 5 Out of 10 Men’s dancers take on the physicality of the ideal, the swagger of the masculine as well as the exhaustion of pressure. Like its character, it flags as it goes on, tiredness and sweat streaking the performers and wracking their bodies. At its end, the narrative has led only to the death of the young man, his fate set by the pressures placed upon him. (LC)
5 Out of 10 Men ran at theSpace on Niddry Street until August 27th - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/5-out-of-10-men
Deep Diving Ensemble: http://www.deepdivingmen.com
Samaritans Sucide Statistics Report 2016: http://www.samaritans.org/about-us/our-research/facts-and-figures-about-suicide/suicide-statistics-report-2016
Tony Porter: A Call to Men (TED): http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_porter_a_call_to_men?language=en
Grayson Perry – Whither Big Balls?: http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/tv-radio/2016/05/whither-big-balls-grayson-perry-investigates-masculinity-better-anyone-else
Southbank Centre BAM Festival: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/festivals-series/being-a-man
Get Help with Suicide (CALM): https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/get-help/suicide/