A collaboration which celebrates the power of womenThe Man Presents Company

As Emmeline Downie meets with her brilliant female comedians on a rainy Saturday afternoon, she becomes the next leader of the legacy which is the Man Presents series. A sense of sheer excitement radiates from director and actors alike as they embark on the next set of comedy monologues for this third edition of the show.

Three seems to be the lucky number in this production. This instalment features three different casts made up of new and old performers, giving the audience three completely different nights of comedy. At the core of this version, however, as well as the new comedic voices, the audience hears familiar ones, as the show’s premise loosely revolves around the idea that the man has died and that he is presenting here his best works, the stars of his oeuvre. This production is nostalgic, looking back to its origins and the group who began this whole endeavour.

Underneath all of these jokes there is, undoubtedly, a much more serious message about the female voice

The workshopping session centres, naturally, around developing the characters for the monologues. Some come with monologues already written, as a psychotic dark-web vlogger or a paradoxical sex-ed teacher, and their performances already leave us in fits of laughter. Some come just with a character, and the words of their monologues spring out of conversations among the group who throw around lines, spit-balling, never dismissing anything as too ridiculous but working around the ideas until the crystals bob to the surface and lie there in their comic beauty. The accents as they impersonate each character have been pruned to perfection – these are no longer Cambridge student comedians but the female characters they have created.

This is the most eclectic set of characters so far, Downie tells me, the most surreal gathering of women, from a school receptionist to a milk-maid, a driving instructor to Alexa. This myriad of comedy is grittier than the other versions, it’s darker, and maybe this says something about the cynicism of our current social and political lives. Underneath all of these jokes there is, undoubtedly, a much more serious message about the female voice, both in the necessity of its speaking and in its capacity to entertain. The audience will see a range of characters from different walks of life, some more human, some more ridiculous than others, tied together by a single thread: they are women.


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Yet on a lighter note this is also about the joy of laughter and the hilarity of our world. The characters the audience see are stereotypes, some rooted in a certain time and place but all recognisable as people who move around us every day. The ridiculousness of the monologues comes not just from these comedians’ skill but has its roots in human reality. Molly O’Gorman’s Irish sex-ed teacher mocks the frigidity of a school PSHE system of which we have all been a part, exploring the self-contradictions of this approach; Mariam Abdel-Razek’s psychotic vlogger intensifies the fragility of vlogging as a career to earn money. She subverts the tropes which have become so familiar to us with the rise of YouTube vlogging stars into something much more terrifying yet ultimately hilarious. The comedy then comes from a twisting of what is already there in front of us. It is about finding the child’s giggle in every part of reality.

This is a showcase of comedic writing at what seems to be its most independent, in monologues crafted by a single individual, spoken by one woman alone on stage. Yet the unity of the rehearsal space, the flowing of ideas between each of these women, creates an environment of collaboration which celebrates the power of women when they come together and speak and make us laugh. This is about engaging the audience through laughter but also about giving women the confidence and power that is so crucial to their lives. As Downie takes on the challenge of directing this next set of monologues in The Man Presents she stands at the head of a group of brilliant women.

The Man Presents: Even More Women is on at the Corpus Playroom, 22-26 May

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