Underbelly Cowgate (Belly Laugh), Edinburgh

‘Jack’ has an all-consuming mission – to turn himself into a ‘real’ man. You know what I mean by that… bulging biceps, a rock-hard six-pack, the ability to face down any adversary and come out on top.

With this is mind, he’s spending a lot of time down the gym, lifting weights, doing push-ups. He models himself on Rambo (‘don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe’), and he dreams about having the authority to make other men step aside. At the gym, he meets Max, a weightlifter, and the two of them hit it off. Pretty soon, Jack is running with his new friend’s gang, drinking Stella, snorting lines of coke and immersing himself in a foetid stew of toxic masculinity. But, as the story unfolds, we begin to realise that something bad has happened to Jack, back when he was just some skinny kid called Jamie – something that, try as he might, he cannot banish from his mind. Something that haunts him. Something that is destroying him.

Ripped is a monologue, written and performed by Alex Gwyther and direct by Max Lindsay. It’s a play that tackles a subject that few dramatists are prepared to take on, because the subject is so taboo. But here male rape is confronted head on, and laid bare in all its unspeakable horror.

Not only is this a beautifully written piece, one that walks a perilous tightrope between dark comedy and outright shock, but it also features a performance so powerful and compelling that I find myself riveted by it. I’m clearly not alone. Gwyther receives an impassioned standing ovation at the play’s conclusion.

I cannot promise that you’ll enjoy this play, but it positively demands to be seen. And I have just one more word to add to this review.


5 stars

Philip Caveney



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