Coming to grips with manhood in The Penis Society

SINGAPORE - The title of the play is enough to make anyone blush, but a female director has boldly agreed to helm, a-hem, The Penis Society.

Patricia Toh will look at the local sex scandals of the past year - from the former chiefs of civil defence and anti-narcotics charged with procuring sex for contracts, to the long parade of men in trouble for sleeping with one underage prostitute - and milk them for entertainment.

Toh, 31, says: "The play questions why men would risk bright, promising careers for these fleeting moments of passion, and why they would let a certain organ dictate how they behave. The answer may be that that's just how men are wired."

It's a charge that the play's actors are hard-pressed to dismiss. Wilson Xin, Prem John and Ryd Salleh play multiple roles in a play that combines elements of stand-up comedy, talkshows and even poetry to examine the issue of manhood and masculinity.

Xin says: "The play is unabashed in asking the question: Why do men cheat? So we're going to be unabashed in answering them. The actors might come across as blunt and in-your-face when we give you the answers, but it will be the truth as we know it."

With a script by Goh Boon Teck, The Penis Society even features a poem about the male organ, exploring its truths, myths, puzzles and paradoxes.

Xin says: "Many people assume they understand the straight male because, well, there are so many of us. We also tend to be more transparent and straight-talking. But when the sex scandals hit the headlines last year, it seemed like a good time to relook the male impulses and try to make sense of it."

Actor John adds: "There are not a lot of plays in Singapore theatre that examine the struggles and dilemmas of the straight male.

"But we think that a lot of men struggle to control some of their basic urges because society asks that they behave in a certain way - especially once they get married. So we hope the play will address those issues."

All three actors, incidentally, are still single.

Interestingly, the play's producers felt that the best audience for the play may not be found in the theatre. So they're taking the production to Aqua Nova instead, a popular club in Clarke Quay with a live band and a dancefloor.

Toh says: "That will be the true test of whether what we're saying about men resonates with the average male or not. Let's hope they don't throw peanuts at us."

The Penis Society runs from the Sept 10 to 29. No show on Monday and Friday, and no show on Sept 25, Wednesday. The shows run at 8.30pm, at Aquanova, Block C, #01-09, Clarke Quay, River Valley Road. Tickets at $26 from Sistic

Get The Business Times for more stories.