Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Blokes, Fellas, Geezers

Written and performed by Jake Jarrett
Arts Centre Washington

Jake Jarrett and two of his characters

Men today, we have been told for quite some time (it seems longer!), have a crisis of identity. Phrases like “toxic masculinity” or “getting in touch with your feminine side” are bandied around, but where do boys get their concept of what being a man means? From their fathers, of course, and that concept, like their fathers’, is reinforced by those around them: family, friends, neighbours.

Jake Jarret’s one-man show deals with his changing relationship with his “fatha”, from being a young boy, hero-worshipping and never feeling so comfortable and happy as when he is close to him, either cuddled up to him or learning from him how to fish in the local reservoir, through adolescence to seeing and meeting him on equal terms as an adult.

The setting is Crook in County Durham, a market town 9 miles from Durham and the “Gateway to Weardale”. And it is well served with pubs, as Jarrett points out.

For his fatha and the other men, being a man is defined by being “hard”, able to give and take violence—like the lad in the yellow tee-shirt from “up the Dale” who proves to be a really hard nut, exciting grudging admiration.

Directly addressing the audience throughout, Jarrett uses a collection of white cardboard boxes as props, arranging and rearranging them in various configurations. Some of them have a childlike caricature of one of the people in his story on one of the faces.

In the story and in Jarrett’s performance, there are moments of quiet contemplation, of happiness, or worry, of sadness and of explosive violent anger, a kaleidoscope of the emotions of a growing boy, moving from reliance to self-reliance, finding himself.

Jarrett doesn’t draw any conclusions, he simply tells it as it is—not as it was, for we are in the present throughout. We infer the changes from child, to growing boy, to adolescence, to man, and the fact that we do make that inference without any sense of dislocation or wondering “Eh? What’s happening now?” is a tribute to Jarrett’s writing and performance and the work of dramaturg Ruth Johnson and director Scott Young.

It’s been a good year for Jarrett: he co-wrote and performed in Wank Buddies at Live Theatre in March and performed in Isolation at the Customs House in May and in Blokes, Fellas, Geezers he makes an impressive debut as a solo writer and performer.

The play tours to Harrogate Theatre (27 September), Theatre Deli, Sheffield (2 October), Byker Community Centre (4 October), Durham Gala (as part of the Durham Book Festival) (5 October), Waddington Street Centre, Durham (8 October) and Trimdon Station Community Centre (19 October).

Reviewer: Peter Lathan