Stripped down to its bloodless essentials, life is- give or take- a series of disjointed happenings, comings together and comings unstuck. There are birth pangs, there are death pangs. Big deal. John Emslie’s 50% Liability is a play that has something to say about all these things, plus one of those other elemental, everyday components: luck. Particularly, exclusively, bad luck.
In all honesty, it’s a show that deals exclusively with accumulated bad luck. How it stacks up, adds together and hardens into all that you’ve got. The genetic bad luck of being born, in a ‘scrawny’ (and Emslie makes this go a long, long way) frame ripe for the horrors of adolescence and high school, ripe for the bitter comic irony of becoming a male stripper in 80s Aberdeen (‘quite a conservative place’) having to carve out a niche hovering on the borderline of mutual humiliation for both stripper and client. Of all the petty, excruciating layers of incomprehension between the generations.
There’s not much in the way of linear narrative. But, for Esmlie, that’s sort of the point. He presents his life as a series of fluid, semi-connected catastrophes, each one more seemingly inevitable than the last. A broken neck in a slapstick occurrence at work, a near-death dream trip to Alaska, the use of his claims money to finance the show itself. In a sense, it’s a play that deals with how misery breeds misery and accumulates, as if by stealth. It’s a play that deals, blithely, with causality, with self-pity. With how it can take a whole lifetime to scramble clear of unpropitious beginnings. How that might be an impossibility in the end.
And finally, it deals with a kind of gallows hope. That even now, after a more than a lifetime's worth of ‘bad luck’, there’s the creeping anxious hope that ‘things can only get better’. (FG)
50% Liability played at C Venues - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/50-liability-1
Exotic Dancers: Gender Differences In Societal Reaction, Subcultural Ties, and Conventional Support- http://www.albany.edu/scj/jcjpc/vol10is1/bernard.html
Naked Ambition: The Truth About Male Strippers- http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/sex-industry/naked-ambition-the-truth-about-male-strippers-7820919.html
Chance: A Key Role in Life- https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/ChanceCanPlayKeyRole.pdf