Case Study: Locker Room Talk


Created in response to the Donald Trump’s infamous “grab them by the pussy” comment, Traverse Theatre’s Locker Room Talk is a provocative exploration of how men speak about women in men-only spaces, asking if such sexually abusive rhetoric can really be accepted as mere ‘locker room talk’, or whether such attitudes are much more ingrained and drive abusive behaviour.

Award-winning playwright and Traverse Associate Artist Gary McNair interviewed hundreds of men from a wide variety of backgrounds. A selection of these conversations are performed, verbatim, by a cast of 4 women. Each performance is followed by a post-show conversation, giving the audience opportunity to participate, ask questions, examine the issues raised and consider ‘where do we go from here?’.

This piece is argument for the power and breadth of what theatre can do, how the empathy of the stage can spark difficult and important conversations and debates, and ultimately effect change.

As uncomfortable as it is to listen to the very real accounts of men spewing “slags” and “plastic bag jobs,” their numeric rating systems for attraction, and their attitudes towards women in places of work, it is important to remember that these conversations happen, they’re real, and they’re not going to go away by themselves.

By creating a safe space for conversation and intentionally including only these types of accounts – and not aiming to create a balanced view of positive and negative conversations about women – the playwright argues that a shift in conversation from “#NotAllMen” to “How Can I Help?” is imperative to move equality forward. It’s about the damage this is doing to men, as well as women, feeling they have to live up to an expectation – the aggressive, dominant sense of ‘what it means to be a man’ – in a nuance about humanity.

Photo by David Monteith-Hodge

Artistic Director Orla O’Loughlin said: “We believe that the first step towards positive change is visibility and discussion. At this tipping point moment, as many brave individuals come forward to share their testimonies of violence and harassment, it’s clear that society must take action. The Traverse is proud to take a lead in tackling this pressing and difficult topic.”

Locker Room Talk lays bare some very ugly behaviours in an attempt to challenge the attitudes which can lead to abuse – and we continue to be overwhelmed by the interest and engagement of those who have seen the show.

Though initially shown as a ‘rapid response’ piece, events both local and international prove that Locker Room Talk has only grown in agency: as an act of resistance, a means of provocation and a rallying call to arms.

Following sell-out performances at the Traverse, Abbey Theatre in Dublin and Latitude Festival in 2017, the politically charged piece has also been performed in front of an amassed collection of political bodies and decision-makers at the Scottish Parliament. This gave everyone present the opportunity to discuss how we tackle an alarmingly common issue in practical terms while presenting a powerful opportunity to effect real change.

Photo by David Monteith-Hodge

Locker Room Talk returned to the Traverse stage this year to continue the conversation about misogyny and masculinity which has become even more urgent since its premiere. There’s an international resonance with this piece and it’s already going to production in Germany and Australia.

We’re constantly encouraging people to keep the conversation going, whether it’s in society, or by sharing your experiences and thoughts on social (using the hashtag #LockerRoomTalkPlay)

www.traverse.co.uk / @traversetheatre / #LockerRoomTalkPlay
@OrlaOLoughlin1 / @TheGaryMcNair