96% of all male rape cases go unreported. Masking his trauma, Jack steps into the absurd world of modern masculinity and reinvents himself as a "real man". This is his explosive story. How far will Jack go to fit in, whilst hoping his past never catches up with him?
Written by and starring Alex Gwyther (Most Promising New Playwright shortlist at Off West End Awards), Ripped exposes this national crisis and the pressures put on young men to live up to outdated ideals.
Hi Alex thanks for talking to TNC, how are things going?
Really well. We’re five shows in and finding our feet at the Fringe. Have had wonderful 4* and 5* reviews so far too.
What was your first Edinburgh Fringe experience like?
It was 2013 and another one-man play I’d written called Our Friends, The Enemy. It taught me a lot in a short space of time. It was hard work but paid off in the end as we took it on two UK tours the following year and it transferred to New York the following year.
What have been the weirdest, nicest & strangest comments you got for you shows?
In 2013 a woman came up to me on the Mile and said that she had seen my show and told me about how her Grandfather had fought in the war and I looked just like him.
Do you have any nerves ahead of your run?
Of course. I’d be worried if I didn’t have them! But nerves are good.
Can you tell me a little bit about Ripped, what can we expect?
Ripped is a solo show exploring toxic masculinity. It follows the journey of Jack who, after an unprovoked attack, tried to reinvent himself as a hyper-masculine ‘real man’. It is a blistering, humorous, emotional performance into the absurd world of modern masculinity and whether Jack can be that real man he wants to be. It explores why 96% of all male rape cases go unreported and the pressures put on young men to live up to outdated ideals of masculinity. It has been developed in collaboration with Survivors Manchester.
What was the inspiration behind this new show?
I always wanted to write a show about masculinity, but I didn’t know how to approach it. It was when I was touring a show on sex and relationships to colleges where my character had a monologue confessing he’d been raped by another male character. It was always met with laughter and when I asked students if it was a girl confessing she’d been raped would you laugh? They always replied No, because it’d be a girl. That was the catalyst for me to write the show as I so direct link between Male rape and how we view masculinity.
"The script itself has gone through many different edits and changes leading up to public performances with the aim that it delivers an honest and truthful portrayal."
When you first discovered the stats about male rape and the vast majority of unreported male rapes how soon did you realise you wanted to make this into a one-man show?
Almost immediately. I was fortunate enough during the research process to speak to survivors of male rape which encouraged me further, especially when I came to understand how prevalent it was.
How much has Survivors Manchester helped you with your writing, performing and research on Ripped?
Duncan Craig, CEO of Survivors Manchester has been so helpful in confirming statistics and facts and being a pool of knowledge in understanding everything around male rape, such as the legalities, police resources, changing attitudes, stigmas attached and where improvements have been made. They have also been incredibly supportive in helping us advertise the show and reach new audiences.
With such a powerful and salient show being authentic, honest and respectful of survivors must be essential, how have you been able to stay respectful to survivors stories and experiences?
Again, Duncan Craig of Survivors Manchester has been crucial to this because he’s helped us stay on track with a truthful and sensitive portrayal of male trauma which also provides a strong message to audiences.
What has been the most challenging part of putting this show together?
Every element of the show has been talked over at great length. The script itself has gone through many different edits and changes leading up to public performances with the aim that it delivers an honest and truthful portrayal. Similarly, the presentation of the characters has also been very carefully fine-tuned.
How will you unwind after your show, it must be hard to not allow yourself to become too affected by your subject, performance and your audience's reactions?
It has been challenging and will continue to do so. I always come out of the show slightly wired and on edge, so I always have to apologise to people if I speak to them after the show. The support of my producer and director has been really important. Usually, a good dose of water, a sit-down and a banana does the trick.
Have you always had a passion for performing?
Yes, always. Ever since I was young. It’s the standard actor’s story.
Has your approach to your shows/writing changed much since you started?
With every show, I write or am part of I learn something about myself, refine my craft, hone my process and learn from others. Yes, my process does change slightly. I can't wait to get started on the next one.
What 3 words best describe this show?
Blistering, humorous, emotional.
And finally, what do you want your audiences to take away from Ripped?
I want audiences to be more conscious as to how we frame masculinity and understand that the current model we are using is old, outdated and causing many individuals to lead unhappy lives. I wanted to see Jack's story as an example of the journeys of self-recovery hundreds of thousands of men embark on throughout their lives and to show that we need to break these stigmas.