The Misandrist ★★★ Arcola Theatre | May 10 - Jun 10, 2023

For the first act of The Misandrist the play seems to be misnamed. We enjoy a comedy about a young couple tentatively exploring their sexuality with humour and tenderness. There are a lot of good lines here, and there is a feeling of being on familiar territory as we watch the relationship grow and trust between them build. However, the second act explains the title. It turns out that Rachel, played by Elf Lyons, has serious issues. She is obsessed by her father's and former boyfriend's infidelity, and what was previously presented as playful sexual experimentation has only been a guise for her misandry. When her father dies and her current boyfriend, Nick, played by Nicholas Armfield is unfaithful she lashes out, at one point giving an overly long tirade delineating what she hates about men. Lisa Carroll's play lacks a clear narrative arc as we move from the world of romcom to a study of dysfunction. The sexual openness celebrated in the first act seems to be pathologised in the second, and the character of Rachel is turned inside out. While Elf Lyons puts in a strong performance as both Rachels, and Nicholas Armfield is touchingly open and vulnerable as her trusting but abused boyfriend, the play seems cobbled together from different perspectives. The lighthearted and amusing first act which seemed to be a clever exploration and celebration of sexually transgressive behaviour is good fun. The second act which apparently deals with the transference of personal and social patterns of abuse didn't work as well, and actually seemed to contradict much of the message of the play's first half. The Misandrist has both very funny and quite shocking moments; it has something to say, but it's not always clear what it is.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Charles Flint.

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