Printable CopyWHIPLASH
National Wine Centre
Until 01 Mar 2019

Review by Sarah Westgarth

Presented at the 2019 Adelaide Fringe Festival

Part of the description for “Whiplash” describes it as being about "the challenges of being a better man in the #MeToo movement." This line left me a little trepidatious, hoping I wasn't going to be subjected to an hour of railing against feminism. Thankfully, it wasn't that, but at the end I was left not quite knowing what it WAS.

Scott Wings’ one man show sets the stage with him playing himself on a date—a fairly straightforward premise, and a fertile ground for discussing the modern day courting process. We don't spend much time with him at the restaurant, though. Instead, Scott soon realises that his Heart has gone missing, so he goes on a journey inside himself to find it. This is where Wings’ physical skills come into play, as personifies different parts of himself, from a Memory to a Nerve to his very own Brain. It's an interesting concept, but one with which Wings does not really know what to do.

“Whiplash” feels episodic in nature, with sequences built around his different adventures in the various parts of his inner world. One example is a scene where he encounters various Past Selves, all of whom are learning the lessons that have made him into who he is today. This is one of the stronger parts, but like the rest of the show, it doesn’t fully capitalise on its intention. Everything together feels haphazard; a series of half-baked ideas that are never given the time or depth they deserve. There’s a brief moment where he recalls times in his past where he feels he may have crossed the line with a sexual partner, but we instantly breeze past it with no real exploration of the effect of those experiences, and no discussion of remorse or regret. There is a place for the perspective of a single man in our current state of sexual and gender politics, but Wings’s attempt at it lacks the nuance it really requires. A lot of the ideas presented in ‘Whiplash’ seem disconnected, with Wings never taking a stand or presenting plainly what his thoughts and feelings are. Perhaps this was part of the intention—one of the questions he asks is about being unsure of how you really feel on an issue when it can seem like you’re just regurgitating what you’ve read on Instagram. Again, this is a valid point, but it’s presented in a rather shallow way, and never digs any deeper than posing the question and repeating common contrarian opinions. The pace of the show is so frenetic that it doesn’t allow anything to really land, and the more poignant moments are glossed over in favour of the extended, broader bits that are played mostly for laughs.

I will say again that perhaps the bitsy nature of the show was intentional, designed to replicate the confusion a young man might feel in the face of embarking on a relationship, when he is all too aware of his own emotional baggage. Unfortunately, the whole thing feels painfully self-indulgent, even for a one-man show. The conclusions that he comes to—our past pain makes us who we are, finding the balance with what we choose to care about—are not invalid, but are presented in quite an adolescent way. There’s a version of this that works, perhaps if it had been workshopped with a woman, especially considering he ultimately comes to realise that maybe his story needs more of the female perspective. As it is, it comes across as the distracted thoughts of a man in a state of arrested development who has had the profound realisation at age 35 that maybe women are worth listening to.

I am sure that ‘Whiplash’ is a show that will resonate more with men, and the energy and passion with which Scott Wings has crafted the show cannot be denied. Ultimately though, the lack of emotional depth means it failed to resonate here in the way it clearly wants to.

Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)