“…the type of guy that can gan out and drink 14 pints, sleep wi’ 3 women and knock out 14 bouncers with half a punch all in one night. Somebody that just looks at ya and ya shit yourself…”
That’s the ideal version of a man moulded by ‘Fatha’ and all the fathas before him in this one-man show about inescapable working-class masculinity. It is an incredibly north-eastern show and clearly strikes a chord with audiences here. I was reminded of my Grandad throughout… his mannerisms, the old-fashioned but still – for the most part – well-being ideas about “looking after yaself” and then how they feed into the importance of being “a man” regardless of whether that’s what you want to be.
Writer-performer Jake Jarratt provides an immediately likeable performance with a cheeky twinkle and the hint of disdain at his surroundings. This semi-autobiographical piece draws on Jarratt’s experiences growing up in Crook, County Durham.
Jarratt is a NORTH sponsored artist. Blokes, Fellas, Geezers appeared in the Northumbria Theatre MA Students Final Showcase at Live Theatre on September 15th 2017 as a half-hour version so it has had plenty of time to grow, with the story and characters being noticeably expanded and improved.
“I once watched Chris Eubank Jr make Spaghetti Bolognese on Facebook Live. Looked rank.”
Boxing – one of the traditional working-class man’s routes of escape – offers no solace for Jarratt as he would rather perform onstage, something difficult to get across to his aggressively craggy-faced dad as we see in a section amusingly referencing Billy Elliot. Special note must be made of Jarratt’s character work, embodying a small troupe of characters very effectively.
The story is simple but strong. Jarratt, having given up boxing after one fight in order to do school plays, ultimately finds himself forced to fight the local big nutter in the pub – illustrated, as most things are, through an inventive use of drawn-on cardboard boxes – after a request for said nutter to move to let our narrator see ‘the foota’ gets misconstrued. Everyone in the immediate community believes Jarratt has to fight, most notably his Fatha, but he would rather not and therein lies the conflict.
“I bet Conor McGregor never has to eat burnt toast.”
It’s a well-structured and witty monologue – you’ll learn about macaques and fire alarms – with a number of memorable sections including the scene near the end where Jarratt is tutored by Fatha and dresses ‘accordingly’, the aforementioned boxing match (with its well-timed cries of desperation) and the comical mime of squeezing yourself in-between a large crowd of people at the pub. Many small gestures or actions linger in the mind too, such as Jarratt forcing himself to enjoy eating burnt toast – with its obvious symbolism of trying to fit in somewhere you feel uncomfortable – and the moment when two closed fists were slowly, unsurely formed above the piles of boxes.
Perhaps the ending felt a tad anti-climactic but it does wrap up the main focus of the narrative, that being the irreconcilable differences between Fatha and son. All in all, Blokes, Fellas, Geezers is a bold and honest debut show which is instantly relatable and exuberantly performed. Here’s to more of the same from Jake in the future.