The Y chromosome is decaying, so get ready for a future without the biological signifier for masculinity. Director Isabella Vadiveloo and dramaturge Brendan McDougall talk to Time Out about their MUDFest debut, Man Zoo.
Hi guys, take us through the scenario: why are there naked men in cages and what the heck is happening to my chromosomes?
IV: In the world of the play, men are an endangered species. And that’s what happens to endangered species: they are caged for their own benefit.
BM: In terms of your Y chromosomes, they are losing their ability to actually have an effect on genetically coding masculinity, or at least they are according to British geneticist Bryan Sykes. Basically the theory goes that in 125,000 years the male Y chromosome will have destroyed itself through overwork, and will no longer be the gene responsible for making boys, boys. According to Wikipedia however, this theory has been largely debunked. But hey, it’s theatre.
What inspired this interest in genetics?
BM: Our friend Rohan Byrne, who plays Isaac in the show. We are totally indebted to him for the original concept. He is one of those rare but wonderful people who sees both art in science, and science in art.
IV: Yeah, I was really interested in the concept when he brought it to us, and that we can create something that seems so fantastical out of something scientifically justified.
What kind of theatre event are we looking at here?
IV: You are invited on an informative and fun tour of the Centre for Male Conservation. No flash photography. But you can sit down.
BM: I've been describing it as three girls talking about four stark naked dudes in a cage. But I also try to push the fact that I think that the idea of three girls talking about four stark naked dudes in a cage is, I think, I hope, a beautifully human one.
What issues does this story raise for you? Is it first of all a conservation story or a gender politics story? Or just awesome science fiction that tells a story about humanity?
IV: The latter, definitely. We don’t want to bash people over the head with a message. It’s silly, with lots of movement, talking and feelings.
BM: We are trying to ask what it is to be human, without asking it directly. I guess we wanted to just skip all the labels and gender and race and politics and just say: hey, these are what people look like sometimes: naked and silent, or talking too much; love them regardless.
Speaking as conservationists, what are the ideal qualities in a man?
IV: First and foremost, a love of watermelon.
BM: Good behaviour in rehearsals, genitalia that don’t make me feel too inadequate.
What got you interested in theatre?
IV: The fact that people have to listen to you. It’s great.
BM: Same, definitely ego at first. But it’s also really fun to try and fit yourself into another brain for a while.
Other tips for MUDFest?
IV: Drink a lot. It’s student theatre.
BM: Drink a lot. It’s student theatre. Also, come see our show!
Isabella and Brendan are both second year Bachelor of Arts students at Melbourne University. They have both worked in the student theatre there as actors, writers, directors, movement coaches, devisors and designers.