Reviewed – 26th May 2022
“an astonishing performance, funny and vulnerable, hard-hitting and eloquent”
Y’MAM (an acronym for Young Man’s Angry Movements) is in good company, another in a spate of plays about toxic masculinity and its effects on men’s mental health, among them the five-star-reviewed For Black Boys… Of course, it’s no surprise that there is so much recent discussion on the subject, given its relevance and societal urgency. But how is Y’MAM supposed to stand out from the crowd?
Writer and performer Luke Jerdy chooses humour. But it’s not just that he’s funny, rather he finds and forces humour even in the darkest moments. Sure, we’re laughing at his impression of his giddy therapist, but we’re still laughing when he’s lighting his 13-year-old classmate’s hair on fire; when, having knocked someone out cold, Jerdy’s run away from the scene, leaving a friend to take the blame. We know it’s not funny, but we’re experiencing it via his own coping mechanisms of minimising and diverting, making it impossible to stare po-faced and earnestly at the problem.
The story keeps a pace with a largely rhyming spoken-word delivery, and if it’s all about to get a bit too self-reflective, Jerdy jumps in with a song and a rap. It’s a tricky balancing act, because ultimately you don’t want to go so far into light entertainment that the point of the story is lost. But it’s this very fine balance that makes it such an effective story-telling tool. The grim details are all there for us to see, we’re just ingesting them via jokes and songs, uncomfortable as the juxtaposition sometimes is.
Projected photos and clipart-style videos are effective in keeping the audience’s eye roving just enough that Jerdy doesn’t have to take the entire 80-minute hit. They’re a bit basic, and at some points unnecessary, but they hardly take away from the power of the piece.
Wearing a light-coloured tracksuit, you can literally see how hard Jerdy is working on that stage from the sweat pouring through; running laps around the stage, jumping like a gorilla, rapping and dancing and playing every character he encounters with equal verve throughout. It’s an astonishing performance, funny and vulnerable, hard-hitting and eloquent. An excellent addition to the conversation, and, hopefully, a very liberating and cathartic story for some.
Reviewed by Soho Theatre
Photography by Brian Roberts
Soho Theatre until 4th June
Show mentioned in review:
Previously reviewed at this venue: