Irish writer and actor Neil Watkins stars in this enticing, truthful play.
You can imagine my boyfriend’s surprise when I tell him of our plans for Valentine’s night. I can see his eyebrow arch … a play about masturbation? Except it’s not.
From the people who bring you clever, bold theatre to Ireland’s Electric Picnic festival, THISISPOPBABY present the award-winning The Year of Magical Wanking.
Coinciding with the Mardi Gras, Irish writer and actor Neil Watkins, takes to the dimly lit rectangular bordered stage at the Sydney Theatre to present to an honest open stream of his life experiences accompanied by an emotional roller-coaster of shame, self-loathing, despair and attempted acceptance.
Taking you on a journey of self-discovery, Watkins hop-scotches from city to city: from Dublin to New York and Paris to Finland.
This is an enticing, truthful account of one man’s story, which he hopes, in the telling, will give him added clarity each time he delivers it.
It covers family, homosexuality, the shameless state of the Catholic Church, abuse, HIV, porn, sex and yes – masturbation.
Suiting the dark undertones of the play and the trapped sentience of what he portrays, Neil delivers his story in an industrial-like stone-walled fortress.
With only one solo stool as a prop and a smoke-machine for added effect, he poses and paces back and forth barefooted, dressed in grey and with two war paint like blue strips on his face. Is this war? “…infuse my heart with courage, I am a wanker…I wank therefore I slam, not healthy if you feel shame”.
Taking his self-loathing to stage, Watkins lightens the darkness of the subject matter with the help of Shakespearean rhythm. He flows from one sentence to the next; surprising, shocking, engaging the audience with stories of abuse and violent sex whilst still having the ability to interject some quality Irish humor.
Declaring wanking as the answer, he later expresses a willingness to be emotionally involved and to “wake up in someone’s arms”. With addiction being a common occurrence, two more added to the list of revelations include that of smoking weed and of laptop porn.
The title is a play on words taken from the novel The Year of Magical Thinking from Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Joan Didion.
Written following the death of her husband (and the occurrence of her daughter being hospitalised), this reference to mourning literature reflects the parallel nature of what Neil Watkins is experiencing.
Whilst Didion turns to magic and denial, Watkins turns to a witch doctor and masturbation.
The common thread of the mourning theme lends itself to Watkin’s own vision of his funeral and what the eulogy would reveal.
Neil, in his 33rd year, draws comparisons throughout to Jesus.
The soliloquy also carries on conversations with additional characters; the aforementioned white witch doctor, a conquest, Finnish joint-smoking skate-boarders and his alter ego Heidi Konnt, winner of Alternative Miss Ireland 2006, who drew a lot laughs from the audience …”I gave you my best hand-jobs!”
With Konnt as a mask, he struggles to break free from this reigning Queen. “I made more cash than all your faggy acting gigs” she declares.
Whilst addressing his fear, his shame, his pain of antagonists, dealing with HIV and his tendency to leaning on the wild side of things, he springs back and forth amongst a sea of social insecurity, yet does set out on a road to salvation, attempting yoga and later finding solace in Amma, the hugging saint.
This is a true, harrowing story of one brave Irish man who delivers a gripping, clever and real performance.