The programme listing for Dickless might suggest a strongly feminist piece. “Women never bought Freud’s idea of penis envy: who would want a shotgun when you can have an automatic?”, it quotes defiantly. And, to a certain extent, a lot of feminist themes are present. This is a one woman show where one of the lead characters, Saff, is a young woman with the almost superhuman ability to manipulate men with her good looks and charm. And yet, interestingly, the threats in Saff’s life are almost entirely a result of male intervention. Dickless certainly has a central theme of female empowerment, but strays from being idealistic. It poses men as the biggest obstacle in Saff’s life and, when the central character swaps to Oli halfway through, women prove the biggest obstacle in his life too. Far more than being a feminist or masculinist piece, this is a production about the complications of gender politics and ideals in modern society.
“a brilliant exploration of gender politics in a realistic and entertaining context”
On a writing level, Dickless does a brilliant job of successfully exploring these advanced and nuanced themes without making it explicit. It avoids feeling like a lecture in identity, instead following a darkly comic and high-octane story through colloquial language and mannerisms. From decapitations to ambushes and everything in between, Dickless proves entertaining, engaging and utterly engrossing. Like a one-person action movie with a generous serving of jet black comedy to whet the appetite. Occasionally it strays into slightly melodramatic territories, particularly when moving into the third act, but for the most part it remains grounded, bringing the intellectual gender commentary to the forefront of a recognisable, realistic setting.
From a performance standpoint, Dickless is equally impressive. Every night the show swaps between two different performers, so although I cannot speak on behalf of both, the performer I saw carried the story with ease. With just a tiny stage and one chair to work with, she told an expansive and emotional story with impressive charisma and passion. The 70-minute show passed in the blink of an eye, with very few slips or stunted moments. The Edinburgh Fringe is packed full of one-person performances, but this is among the more convincing I’ve seen, effortlessly blending humour, emotion and storytelling to give a rounded and believable performance.
Dickless is a superbly written and performed. Aside from the occasional formulaic melodramatic turn, it’s a brilliant exploration of gender politics in a realistic and entertaining context.
New Town Theatre, 2nd – 27th August (not 15th) 18:50
Image: Russ Rowland