The Tarzan Monologues

If The Vagina Monologues was all about empowering women and reclaiming the C-word, it is fair to say that The Tarzan Monologues is the antithesis. The play is written by Nigerian playwright Wole Oguntokun – who also directed the Nigerian version of The V Monologues – and Renegade Theatre has adapted his work by for the Fringe by adding a few cultural and local references. The essence of the piece, though, is truly African. The four monologists are accompanied by drummer Taiwo “Keleko” Adesoji and all provide percussion themselves with woodblocks and cabasas, creating a vibrant musical feast. There are also cameo appearances from Oguntokun himself and – slightly alarmingly – a female voice offstage.

The songs range from pop to traditional African and the blend of voices in each arrangement is sumptuous.

To call the various sections ‘monologues’ is a loose description. Some of them are ensemble pieces; added to the music there is some very fine singing and energetic dancing, not to mention plenty of extremely effective blocking which uses the large, bare stage area and cast to great effect. The songs range from pop to traditional African and the blend of voices in each arrangement is sumptuous. Without expecting applause at the end of each song – though it is much deserved – the sections are blended with slick timing and energy.

However, the content of the ‘monologues’ is more disturbing. As an exploration of ‘manhood’ some of the material verges on misogyny, and while the play is described as “five politically- incorrect Africans in an unrelenting roll,” it is not always easy to know if we should sympathise with or despise some of the attitudes being spouted. There are several references to women only wanting men for their money; one monologue talks of this being “a man’s world” even though women, statistically, live longer. In one section, there are six rather dubious takes on what makes a happy marriage.

This all creates a tricky balance with some of the other sections which give a genuinely enlightening account of what it is to be a man. Some of the more poignant monologues about relationships, ageism, societal pressure, infidelity, and erectile dysfunction give a genuine male perspective, but too often end with a somewhat limp message. Nevertheless, whether the script angers or delights the audience, the performance is spirited and exuberant. The writing certainly rises to the occasion when denouncing a rapist as “not worthy to be called a man” but sadly, while this is a great piece of theatre, much of the message is confused and therefore a tad impotent.

Reviews by J. A. Sutherland

Underbelly, Cowgate

The Tarzan Monologues

★★★
Arthur Conan Doyle Centre

The More the Merrier - Free

★★★
Greenside @ Nicolson Square

Inevitable

★★★★
theSpace @ Jury's Inn

Seven Missed Meals Leads to Anarchy

★★★
St Cuthbert's Church

King David's Wives

★★★
Greenside @ Nicolson Square

SingleMarriedGirl

★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

The Tarzan Monologues: five politically incorrect Africans talk about everything under the sun and then some - women, money, love, sex, power and pressure - in an intense, humorous, unrelenting roll of superb acting interspersed with drums, music and dancing. The performance is for men and all those who truly love them, and is presented by the first Nigerian company to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe (The Waiting Room, 2013) and at Shakespeare’s Globe (The Winter’s Tale - Globe 2 Globe - 2012). www.renegadetheatreng.com @TarzanEdfringe