A Man's World by Adrian Mead

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Drama on 3 on BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3, 12 February 2012
Set in contemporary Edinburgh, this powerful drama followed a group of violent offenders participating in a six-months rehabilitation course run by Angela (Siobhan Redmond). If they pass the course, they would receive a community service order; if they fail, they have to serve their jail sentences. In the series of seminars they are expected to confront their crimes and understand how violence and aggression have shaped their past lives. Only then can they determine what their future courses of action might be.
Turan Ali's production emphasized how difficult this process of coming to terms with one's past actually was. Vincent (Chris Connel) was a former soldier trying to repress his homosexuality; Paul (Paul McCole) came across as a hard man, participating in the sessions "for a laugh," but as the drama unfolded, we learned about his childhood, when he was told to "be nice" to a succession of "uncles" coming to the maternal home. Gary (Sean Hay) was full of pent-up aggression, which he found difficult to put into words, and expressed itself in violence, especially in the home, while Darren (Garry Collins) lacked the self-control to be able to cope with pressure situations, especially when they involved his girlfriend Louise (Vicki Liddelle). The title of the play was an apt one: it not only referred to the "man's world" of the violent criminals, but also focused on social constructions of masculinity, and how they forced individuals to behave in certain ways - even if they were not happy to do so. All the men expressed their frustrations through violence - a "masculine" response - rather than acknowledging their feelings (which, by implication, can be thought of as a "feminine" response).
Mead's play emphasized the importance of giving people a second chance - even though all the criminals were violent offenders, they could perhaps learn how to come to terms with themselves and their feelings. The process was not an easy one: Paul, in particular, was faced with one moment where he could have killed someone in a local pub. But gradually they learned to deal with such situations by taking deep breaths and counting to five. However it was not only the offenders who underwent this transformative process: Angela herself had to learn that this was the only way she could deal with her personal problems. However much she resented her ex-husband Mark's (Tom Freeman's) coming back into her life, she had to give him a second chance, if only for her daughter Chloe's (Mairi Goodall's) future well-being. The play ended with a dramatic climax, in which everyone - Angela and the offenders - were forced to consider whether that second chance would help them or not.
A Man's World made for uncomfortable yet riveting listening, forcing us to consider the ways in which individuals - especially men - are driven to violence, and how (or whether) they can contemplate the consequences of their actions.