31 May 2012

Review: Naked Boys Singing

Naked Boys Singing
Jonathan Worsley
8 May 2012
Beckett Theatre, Malthouse

Yes, it was.

I wondered about the artistic nature of the show as I wondered why the program didn't come with a packet of lube (black and white arty shots of nude boys without a hint of bios, show history or artistic notes). But this show has been running on Off-Broadway for 12 years, so I was still expecting plenty of ironic cheek.

Naked Boys Singing starts when a twink in the audience doesn't turn off grindr – then the show starts. The young lad pops onto the stage and joins the other boys who have a sing about looking for a perfect boyfriend and wondering if being objectified is wrong. Then they get their gear off. Hooray! But we all know that it's not what it looks like, but what you do with it that leaves us satisfied.

There's songs about getting an erection, a cooking one about beating one's meat and a number about a perky little porn star with his dream job. These songs have no relationship to each other and there's no hint of story or the characters that we met (and liked) in the first number, because this is a night all about being in the nuddy.

Except it's not really. I was expecting commentary on the diversity of male bodies, reflections on the beauty of male bodies, a celebration of difference or, heaven forbid, commentary about how young men feel ugly if they don't live up to porn-ready standards. I was left wanting with content so soft.

I like penises to be creative and interesting and not leave me a bit bored.

It's not even a show about cock. But having said that, it was very well cast for it's diversity of penis, but they were all on waxed, tanned, groomed and, I suspect, dehydrated (to get that muscle definition) bodies. Diversity is great, as long as everyone still looks porn ready and slightly pre-pubescent.

Still – as someone from the last generation to have pubes – I got an educational eyeful of complete wax. And say the same thing that I say to women: Why do you want to look like a child?  Opps, I'm heading down the political and feminist ranty path and there's no place for that in a show about nude men.  Maybe men don't have the same body image issues that women do and gay men must be totally fine being compared to porn-ready young bodies.

This is a just a harmless little (medium/bigish/cut/uncut) show about young men parading about in the all-together for the pleasure of older men.  It's all consensual and it's ART, so what's the problem!  Let me even apply the standard sexism test to prove it's fine: swap genders and see if it's still cool. A show with naked young women with porn-ready bodies dancing around for the pleasure of older men. Nothing icky about that.

Naked Boys Singing has been a huge Off-Broadway hit and reached a relatively broad audience that included women.  The down under version is aimed at a niche male audience, but to pull it off successfully and place it in the theatre space it's playing, it needs strong direction that spurts the irony that builds in the songs, a hard sense of character and a cast with voices as firm as their talent.

If not, it's just naked boys (they are not even called men) showing their goolies for money.

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