The Man In The Shed is a highly amusing and at time hilarious solo rant by actor Alex Dee, co-written as Alex Donald with Tim Connery. He is the man taking shelter from the world in his garden and he has no name other than ‘the man in the shed’, which indicates the somewhat generic and universal nature of the person in question; a type, rather than a person, not known publicly in vast numbers, but one suspects that there are plenty of them out there. Perhaps not all in sheds, but perhaps occupying the attic or the basement or any other room that doesn’t bring them into contact with the family or where visitors might venture.
a highly amusing and at times hilarious solo rant
It might depend on your age, background and circumstances as to how much The Man In The Shed resonates with you. It’s one of those pieces that at some point should touch everyone, but some more than others; that much was obvious from the laughs, chuckles and grins, including my own, that looking around didn't come from the same people all the time. Some might have had a father like him, or still do. Others will know of people who live his sort of detached existence, surrounded by the few things that perhaps give security; in this case a supply of whisky, records from the past and a deck that can play old vinyls and CDs. There might be women who see their husband in him, whom they also ban from drinking in the house. It’s also possible to ponder on what’s going on beneath the surface of this ultimately sad case of a human being, for there is clearly much, but it’s only ever hinted at amongst the tirades that flow endlessly from him and that provide amusement at his own expense.
The Man In The Shed is an in-house production at the fabulous Bridge House Theatre, Penge. (For those like me who live north of the River and initially wondered where on earth it was, it’s served by two stations of which Penge West is a few metres around the corner. It’s also a delightful, well-preserved, traditional local pub with a vast outside area.)
The work is in the talented hands of the theatre's artistic director Luke Adamson, who goes for a no-frills approach entirely in keeping with the subject. JLA productions, which he and the theatre’s production manager and associate director Joseph Lindoe co-founded in 2019, provide the lighting, sound and set design, the latter partly by raiding the grounds of the pub. All the elements work well together and the shed is a work of art that could be a gallery installation. If it bore the name Tracey Emin it might even win a prize.
Inside the shed, his ‘fortress of solitude’ and ‘place of reflection’ the man has his wooden table and white plastic chair, in front of which he sets up his tripod, attaches his mobile phone and prepares to record his tirade. He’s learned about YouTube from his daughter and now has a following of three. He really is a loser! Thus begins what is a fine example of a monologue, as opposed to a play, for it is a focused polemic in which he tries to impart ‘facts’ to the world and address the plight of men in today’s society. There is no soul-searching, no delving into his inner depths and no self-analysis, because that’s not what men do; leave it to the women in their social circles, the gays and the environmentalists. The nearest we get to that is the odd qualified line such as, “I love my family, but I can’t relate to anything they do”. Even that is delivered as just a statement of fact rather than an emotional regret.
“It used to be fun being a bloke,” he says. Clearly, as he perceives the world, it no longer is. Now, ‘the world is against blokes’. He’s as out of tune with the modern world as he is with learning, despite trying to impart it to others. He concludes each bold, brash declamation with the assertion, “Fact”. Yet each is a jumbled heap of confusion and misrepresentation. Alex Dee leaves no doubt that the man does indeed believe he is spouting facts and delivers the falsehoods with sincerity and honesty, which makes him all the more pitiful and comical.
For all that The Man In The Shed is a laugh, it is also a reminder of how difficult change can be for many people and the extent to which it poses a threat to their existence; like the man in the shed, left behind in the wake of the woke.