The Beast – Golden Age Theatre

Written and Directed by Ian Dixon Potter

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Climbing the social, political and career ladder is a bugger for all, though there are those men who seem to be ‘pre-destined’ for success. Is it down to their genetics, connections, or could there be something in their raw, animalistic attitudes towards women, other men, and life in general? Grossman runs a successful architectural company and is no stranger to a few ‘out of office’ meetings with female staff. When Caroline spots an opportunity to put her foot forward, on her terms, she visits Grossman.

So, who’s to blame when things go hideously wrong? The man paying a “compliment” in his penthouse, the woman who went with him, or the woman who should have warned her? For some reason, people find the argument concerns only the latter women, rather than the former being the source of the issue. Ian Dixon Potter’s The Beast demonstrates an understanding of the greyscale surrounding toxic masculinity and serves as a ferocious battlefield on the boundaries of morality and dignity.

Performed as a solo performance from Caroline’s point of view, reflecting on the choice she makes, The Beast recounts the events of office life, and Caroline’s thoughts and opinions surrounding feminist movements, lad culture, sexism, and the visage some men use to appear less bestial.

Potter has a dexterous understanding of not only the dangers of misogyny but also the worrying nature of somehow diverting attention onto the women involved, rather than the man accused: the concerns that even those who oppose outright male aggression cannot identify the manipulative capabilities. Despite Grossman’s obvious misconduct there are those who would defend and overlook the difficulties men face in their pursuit of control and influence.

Toxic masculinity isn’t merely a lumbering bravado of muscle – it’s deceitful, it has to have been to continue to stamp out the competition after centuries ‘on top’. Going beyond the existential expectations of bullish thuggery and instead, dissecting the moulding behaviour misogyny has on women’s perceptions of men, The Beast bolsters a cleverly layered script. It leads to an insightfully morose statement on how the world continues to reward the bestial attitudes of abusive men in power – so why would it stop now?

Thankfully, at no point does Potter’s writing, nor Melanie Thompson’s performance ask the audience to draw a conclusion to Caroline’s attitudes and course of action – to the contrary it scalds those who pass judgement. It divulges a new avenue in which those seeking to climb the social ladder through less scrupulous means do so but under their terms and consent. Thompson’s method in characterisation at first conveys authenticity but gradually dissolves into unnecessary theatrics.

Surreptitiously an issue with direction as opposed to performance, Thompson’s portrayal of Caroline has thus far been to the point, engaging and relatable for the audience. Experienced with the systemic sexism in her life, from her father’s preference to the elder son, despite Caroline’s superior talents, to her day-to-day experiences, Thompson holds the character well, staving off raised eyebrows at her dismissal of the #MeToo movements. Thompson understands the nuances and subtext of the script and emboldens Caroline with a sense of purpose.

Accompanying the production is an original composition from Neil Thompson, a welcome addition which enhances the production’s flow which passes the half-hour production with relative ease. Modest in design, The Beast’s camera work and editing are clean but uninspired, instead, placing understandable focus on performance and writing.

Easily one of Golden Age Theatre’s most well-thought pieces, it is certainly one which deserves a lengthier production when a return to the stage is possible. Positively erupting with concepts and language, The Beast needs a touch more leg room to beat its chest and roar with greater conviction.

Available to stream here 

Review originally published for The Reviews Hub

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