Underbelly, Cowgate – until 25 August (not 12th)
Reviewed by Emma Sibbald
Acclaimed playwright Alex Gwyther takes on the daunting subject of male rape in ‘Ripped’, a searing one-man play that strikes at the heart of toxic masculinity, violence, and emotional trauma.
Jack (Gwyther) wishes to conceal his agony, and so reinvents himself into a twisted imitation of ‘true masculinity’. But can we ever truly escape our past?
The play is moving. Gwyther imbues Jack with a subtle tenderness, despite his obvious anguish. Jack, ultimately, is a man searching for refuge, reinventing his identity after it has been obliterated, and Gwyther’s performance reflects this new need for affirmation underneath his overwhelming rage.
The play is not perfect. Wounded masculinity does not always manifest in violence, and although Gwyther’s performance is direct the nuance of the wider situation is sometimes lost, and there’s no real sense of a true solution. “Boys don’t cry and real men don’t die, they just reload!” argues Jack, but what should replace these antiquated, militaristic styles of behaviour? It sometimes feels unclear.
Around 12,000 men report rape every year. The total number is much higher – men tend not go to the authorities, fearing stigma, disbelief, even ridicule. Laws regarding rape victims have been gender neutral since
2003, yet sexual violence against men is rarely discussed and even more rarely prosecuted. It is not a comfortable watch, but ‘Ripped’ reveals the consequences of the mandatory stoicism required by the cultural elements of masculinity. Jack admires Sylvester Stallone’s all-powerful Rambo, but the world of the traditional man’s man ultimately holds no solace for him.
Overall, Gwyther takes on the stigma of the harrowing reality of male rape, and asks us to engage with society’s mistrust of male vulnerability. A valuable and worthy watch