Locker Room Talk

Apr 24 2019 | By More

★★★★☆    Troubling

Traverse Theatre: Tue 23 – Wed 24 Apr 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Deeply worrying and fascinatingly constructed, Locker Room Talk’s return to the Traverse is intriguing in theatrical terms and thoroughly unwelcome in what it reminds us about the world we inhabit.

Originally conceived in response to remarks made by Donald Trump that are too offensively juvenile to be repeated here yet again, Gary McNair’s play is based on his interviews with a variety of men detailing their attitudes to women.

Maureen Carr in Locker Room Talk. Photo: David Monteith Hodge

Billed as ‘what men really say about women when women aren’t around‘ and characterised by one participant in the post-show discussion as ‘depressing but unsurprising,’ excerpts from these interviews are played into the earpieces of the four female performers, whose repeating of them adds another layer to what is already a deeply troubling experience.

There are many shows that feature some kind of post-show discussion; here it is an integral part of the whole, but it is still astonishing to see virtually the whole audience stay behind and participate so wholeheartedly.

What is also unusual is to witness a post-show discussion (expertly moderated by Dr Holly Davis) that focuses entirely on the issues raised by the play and that hardly touches on the making of the work itself. However, lest it be seen as a good old-fashioned piece of consciousness-raising (a job it does very well) it needs to be pointed out what an excellent piece of theatre this is.


Verbatim theatre can gain in immediacy while losing something in structure, but McNair has fashioned a surprisingly cohesive script out of the unexamined lives, childish defensiveness and horrendous prejudice disguised as ‘banter’ of his interviewees. Perhaps some of those recorded were less objectionable; however, it is at least as possible that some were just too horrible to be used.

Locker Room Talk. Photo by David Monteith Hodge

The four performers – Maureen Carr, Jamie Marie Leary, Gabriel Quigley and Nicola Roy – are, as might be expected, simply outstanding. Their ability to inhabit a variety of characters, seemingly at will, is of course proof of a deep understanding of theatre craft.

Similarly, Orla O’Loughlin’s direction is what came to be expected of her during her tenure at the Traverse – apparently simple, but deceptively complex and effective, always at the service of what is being said.

Any description of this play is likely to lead many people to imagine they will know exactly what it is like. And it probably is a bit like that, but it is also far more involving and far more impressive. It is also far more depressing.

However, like the best calls to arms, its final effect is righteous anger rather than despair. In a world where supposed academics can dismiss the gender pay gap as a fiction, it is probably more necessary than ever.

Running time 50 minutes; (1 hour 20 minutes including post-show discussion). No interval.
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 23– Wednesday 24 Apr 2019
Daily at 7.30 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

The play will then tour to the Tron Glasgow for three nights.

Locker Room Talk
The Tron Theatre, 63 Trongate, Glasgow, G1 5HB. Box Office: 0141 552 4267
Thursday 25 – Saturday 27 April 2019
Evenings: 7.45pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

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