There’s more to London theatre than the West End and the Oval House in Kennington is a strong example of some of the exciting smaller theatres that are hiding in Londons diverse boroughs. Its welcoming, friendly atmosphere plays host to a line-up of interesting, accessible and insightful theatre and if the Lad Lit Project is representative of what’s happening there, then more people should be rolling through the doors of this venue.
The Lad Lit Project is a concept created by Sheffield-based group Third Angel, which creates theatre and art pieces often with an autobiographical slant. Inspired by lad lit fiction, the novels of Nick Hornby and his ilk, this one-man show offers a slice of the male psyche based on the stories of real men.
The piece began awkwardly. An audience of four and some minor technical hitches were perhaps the reasons, but the performer, and creator of the piece, Alexander Kelly, didnt begin with particular conviction or confidence. However, once he eased into it, his down-to-earth delivery was utterly charming and he had the four females in the audience completely hooked. Helped by the intimate space it was like an evening in the pub with a friend who was more articulate, witty and poetic than the average person.
The material was superbly written and its structure suited the 75 minute running time perfectly. The different chapters of male life, delivered by Kelly in a second person narrative, were interspersed by what seemed to be his own personal musings on being a modern man. The chapters told stories of an assortment of male lives ranging from the touching to the comical. An episode about a 19 year-old war pilot who was unexpectedly reunited with the man who saved his life said as much about how males communicate with each other as the outrageously funny tale of a 14 year-old whose wank towels are discovered by his mum. A story about a gay male who was an outsider within his shared house demonstrated that all men were represented.
Whether the Lad Lit Project was being funny or poignant it was always insightful. And it was no surprise that it was an all-female audience, as much of the lad lit that inspired the work is read by women too. For the girl who ever wondered why that guy never asked her out or the woman who wishes her partner would open up more the Lad Lit Project may not necessarily have provided direct answers but it certainly would have offered some comfort and an entertaining evening out.
But it’s not just for women. If men were bold enough to venture out of the pub for an evening they would discover that they are not alone. While women have Bridget Jones, the Sex and The City girls and each other for sanity checks, there is little out there for men in terms of honest representation. The Lad Lit Project offers that and a whole lot more.