Holland and Barker: How to Be... A Man.

Alex Holland and Ben Barker present a show on manliness, providing a clichéd but amusing take on what it means to be a man from two self-professed ‘unmanly’ men. The result is an enjoyable show full of (often geeky) pop culture references, video clips of Lou Ferrigno and the occasional astute observation.

Their set is presented via Powerpoint slides, which works with the geeky and informative nature of the show. This includes graphs on manliness and when a man is ‘allowed to cry’. The topic comes with an apology to anyone it may offend due to the nature of gender discussion, but they do manage to toe the line very well. Any potentially sexist or offensive material is immediately subverted or displaced with jokes at their own expense. They even offer the view at the end that the very notion of manliness should be unimportant, and although they do this in a joking manner, the message is nonetheless apparent throughout. This jovial humour is pulled off well, with one of my favourite sections being a sketch swapping the roles of football fans and Trekkies in society: both very funny and socially interesting.

Both of them are unsurprisingly awkward on stage, though this means that some of their jokes lack the conviction to make them truly convincing. Baker’s segments were usually more amusing, but he often let jokes fizzle out without fully developing them. This wasn’t always the case: his ‘heroes’ section, discussing the differences between Roger Moore and Daniel Craig, was hilarious. Meanwhile, Holland’s unassuming character made him highly sympathetic, but meant his jokes didn’t always come across. Overall, with a bit more showmanship and flair, this could be an excellent show.

Reviews by Carys Evans

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Performances

The Blurb

From James Bond to football fans, fighting bears to fighting back tears. Holland and Barker take an irreverent look at what maketh a Man, and question if they could ever be one.