Male vulnerability relentlessly on display in this unique solo-mask performance
A surrealist display of the harsh reality of gender politics, Absolutely Reliable! is transfixing and provocative.
By Lee Delong and Ralf Wetzel
Directed by Lee Delong
With Ralf Wetzel
Masks created by Stephen John Cooper
Inspired by Beckett's Worstward Ho and Gogol's Diary of a Madman, this solo-mask and movement performance is a unique blend of heart and politics. In a timely response to the #metoo movement, performer and co-writer Ralf Wetzel confronts toxic masculinity head on. A surrealistic commentary on the increasingly growing yet criticised alpha-male culture, this show explores male vulnerability and unreleased aggression with tenderness.
George is a white, middle aged, middle class, middle manager desperate for female attention. Yet, just as he appears to be getting closer to his goal, George is thrown into a tangle of denial, anger and insecurity. A journey through inner demons, George oscillates between love and loss, death and birth as he questions his true desires.
Director and co-writer Lee Delong has transformed Wetzel’s anxieties and traumas into a raw investigation of contemporary gender norms. When the mask hit Ralf in one of Lee's Clown workshops, it had a transfixing power over his physicality and mind. Under the careful hand of Lee, Ralf unabashedly revealed himself. Ralf, the performer and co-writer of this piece, has been a traveller through many professions: from an electrician, social worker, management researcher to his current role as a business school professor. But, it is the study of mask work that has lead him into an extraordinarily transformative world.
PRESS COVERAGE (2019-2020)
THE SADDEST MAN IN THE WORLD
by Olga Vujovic
"Absolutely Reliable!" with Ralf Wetzel, International Clown Festival Zagreb, 12.03.2020
…Ralf Wetzel, performed "Absolutely Reliable", directed by Lee Delong at the Triko Circus Studio….His Zagreb performance, described as a "solo mask show", is one of the most exciting performances I've seen in our theaters lately!
He is George, a middle-aged man, middle-class man, and a mediocre manager by profession, who recounts his life to us in search of love, friendship and affirmation.
... a poignant story, masked to unrecognizability and unusual voice modulations, Wetzel evokes deep and sincere sympathy. Thanks to his remarkable interpretation, we do not see Wetzel but George.
George is the prototype of a modern man….an example of a man who may have conquered the universe but lost the battle against himself.
And we cannot laugh at such a character, even when he is funny.
THE WEIRDEST WAY TO TEACH BUSINESS
Financial Times, 14.08.2019
by Jonathan Moules
[The] masked character, George, is a version of a prototypical western man based on ... the traumas that alpha males face in a business world now shaped by the need to diversify workforces and for managers to be more empathetic.
The character of George, a white, middle-aged, middle-class, middle manager [is] desperate for both promotion in his company and for a relationship in his personal life.
As he gets closer to achieving these goals, George’s inner demons of insecurity, anger and denial get the better of him, to tragic effect.
by Sam Chittenden
Venue: C Cubed
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
From the offset Wetzel’s character Goerge is a strange mix of funny and unsettling.
George is a storyteller, recounting the surprising (to him) story of his romantic liaison with the sensual Josephine. Wetzel sveltely shifts in and out of Josephine’s physique….
As the tale develops it (and George) becomes more sinister; more surreal….Wetzel’s emotional engagement with his audience is palpable, and we can’t help but empathise. Yet at the same time there is something ominous about his impulsive neediness; something hilariously discomforting about his sensuality on stage, the way he mounts and strokes a chair….
Of course, things don’t end well, and there is a dark and nicely elliptical ending in sight.
One of very few pieces of mask work in this year’s fringe, Absolutely Reliable! is a deliciously dark tale, engagingly delivered.
Mumble Theatre, 14.08.2019
Stagecraft: 4 stars
Performance: 5 stars
S.O.D: 4 stars
Damian Beeson Bullen
Overall, the message of the play is driven by the context in which you watch it. If you put the show into a different perspective, you see something different. We discovered that it’s like a prism. It will break light accordingly to how it is projected onto it. Masculinity is one angle, femininity might be another.
The beautiful & deformed gargoyle that is George comes across sometimes creepy – like serial killer weird – & sometimes catching our sympathies with sweetness.
… with Wetzel fluctuating between polarized emotions in an astonishing instant – like a magician’s flip of a card – in the same effortless fashion that his 18th century compatriot, Konrad Ekhof, handled both tragedy & comedy famously well.
He is a superb performer & it is a most addictive & fascinating experience watching him surfing on his own intensity.