There is a bizarre group of people who believe that male rape doesn’t exist. One victim of such a crime, who has now founded his own charity, reported that he telephoned a rape crisis line in desperation only to be told by the volunteer on the other end of the line that “men are the abusers, women are the victims”. True, male rape was only identified on the English and Welsh statute books as recently as 1994. Estimates suggest that as many as 15% of men are victims of sexual violence; and of those, less than 20% come forward and report it. For any ignorant, heartless and bigoted people who think men can’t be raped, I prescribe a dose of watching Lotus Theatre Company’s Being A Man, a one-man play performed by Javier Melhado.
In a performance of immaculate control, Mr Melhado explains the thoughts, the fears, the anxieties, the agonies of men who have been raped. He explains how easily it can happen; how a moment of defencelessness can lead to a lifetime of regret. He shows how victims blame themselves, how it must indicate that they are gay otherwise they would have fought to prevent it, how once they are raped they fear they can no longer be defined as a man. How it takes away their self-esteem, their ability to form relationships, maybe their desire to continue living.
In the tiny, harsh acting space of the basement at Hazelrigg House, Mr Melhado bravely examines and exposes the intimacy of these agonies, whether partially concealed behind a confidence-boosting gauze screen, or suspended abattoir-like in front of us with no hiding place, or thrown semi-naked onto the stone floor at our feet. This is a performance of rare honesty and extraordinary power. Technically, I loved how he enunciated every word with perfect delicacy, so that it all hit home with absolute accuracy, allowing you paint pictures with your imagination of the experiences he was describing. It was a shame that the light in the basement meant that the video wall was difficult to see (and I had to bob down to prevent my fat head from obstructing most of the screen). But this is a minor quibble that in no way impacted negatively on a great and important performance. Huge congratulations!