The Penis Monologues provide poignant stories of male vulnerability

Both are left- right: Paul Scott, Chris Murray, Danny Mullins and Bruce Knight.

Both are left- right: Paul Scott, Chris Murray, Danny Mullins and Bruce Knight. - Credit: Archant

Back in 1998, Eve Ensler’s empowering Vagina Monologues gave voice to taboo-busting tales of female experience – from rape and birth to masturbation and orgasm.

Some might argue that the response “what about the penis?” was rather missing the point – and indeed there was a flurry of feminist concern when The Penis Monologues played in Glastonbury last year.

But Justine Corrie of theatre company Nomadic Academy of Fools says audience members fearing a fistful of knob jokes were won over by the show’s raw honesty and vulnerability.

“It’s not played for laughs. People do laugh a lot, but it’s very poignant because they find themselves in the stories which are quite vulnerable.

“Some are around shame, growing up, being with other boys at school, first experiences of using porn, losing virginity, performance anxiety and how the lines of domination and fantasy in sexuality get blurred with reality.

“Seventy per cent of audiences are women and a lot come up afterwards to say thank you, it was eye-opening and I want to bring my boyfriend along.”

Paul Scott originated the piece and performs with five others who use physical theatre techniques to create the settings.

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He said The Vagina Monologues made a deep impression on him.

“Something of the emotion, depth and shockingness hit home and left me for weeks with this feeling of ‘wow’. I wanted to do something for guys in the same style, but with our own stories. We tell real stories that happened to us and talk about the feelings that we have.”

Collecting material

Scott, who served five years in the Army before getting involved with gangs and spending six months in prison, jokes that he was unconsciously collecting material in these male-dominated environments.

“That male energy together can be overwhelming. Although, when I was in it, I probably wasn’t really aware, it later gave me unlimited material. The monologues will never run out, though most of mine are of when I was a young boy and feeling shame.

“One of the most powerful moments is when we go into this story of being taken over by an archetype, that predatory male role, and the idea of overstepping that line.

“That issue really gets opened up. Nothing’s hidden. We are not running around naked, we still have all our clothes on, but there’s a raw, naked power to the emotion behind it.”

There are plans to take the show to Edinburgh and into schools where it might encourage young boys to open up on embarrassing subjects.

“The men come in, usually led by female friends, looking uncomfortable but at the end of the show there’s a sense of being given permission to have a dialogue about the huge amount of vulnerability around male sexuality,” says Corrie. “What it is to be a man and have a penis which can carry negative connotations”.

Scott adds: “We’ve had guys saying, ‘I really wanted to say my monologue’, and that’s amazing, if we can make it feel so safe that they can tell their own story.”

The Penis Monologues is on at Camden People’s Theatre on February 21 and 22.