Male-order pride
Certified Male

Certified Male may have come into existence 12 years ago, but the long-running show is determined to keep pace with the Twitter and Facebook generation that now forms part of its audience.

Fans of this comedy-drama about men and their insecurities will be able to twitter what they think about the new production, talk to the new cast and leave their observations on Facebook.

"It's now an interactive show for all generations," says co-writer, director and actor Glynn Nicholas who is returning to the cast after several years. "You'll be able to twitter before the show, at the interval and after the show, it's that interactive," says Nicholas, who's not one to let an exaggeration go past if it gets him a laugh.

Nicholas and fellow writer Scott Rankin came up with the concept of three blokes from the same office jetting off to a holiday resort with the boss for a corporate restructure and reassessment of their lives for the Melbourne Comedy Festival in 1999. By 2000 Certified Male was a certifiable hit across the country, with two seasons at the Regal Theatre in a short space of time.

In the intervening years the show has travelled widely with its four-member cast and swag of songs about men and their jobs, men and their women, and men and other men. It's been to countries and cultures as diverse as Iceland, Sweden and South Africa as well as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

"I think it's even more relevant not only to men but to their partners these days," says Nicholas, putting on his publicity hat in addition to his roles as co-writer, director, actor and producer.

In the original 2000 Perth production Nicholas played the terribly insecure young employee Alex, who just wanted to please everyone and be liked. Now a little older and wiser, Nicholas will be playing the firm's boss Jarrad, whose plan to restructure his company sets up the visit to the holiday resort.

This time round Alex will be played by Mike McLeish, whose role as Paul Keating in the musical Keating deserves to be long remembered.

There's no Peter Rowsthorn in the new cast, but Nicholas is confident audiences will soon warm to Sydney actor and stand-up comedian David Callan (not to be confused with the Perth-raised Dave Callan), and Cameron Knight as the other two men, Josh and McBride.

Nicholas says men still live in fear of losing their jobs, or of losing their marriage and being faced with difficult choices for the future.

"We've had the global financial crisis since then, of course, and men do still keep secrets - both from their wives or partners and the other blokes in the office.

"I think I've also grown as director of the show, because Certified Male now seems to me to be much more multi-layered. There's a greater poignancy to the vulnerability of the men that counterbalances the comedy."

It wouldn't be a Glynn Nicholas show, of course, without plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, usually in conjunction with his miming skills - the talents that brought him to the attention of television audiences in the late 80s with his appearances on The Big Gig.

Another important ingredient of Certified Males has been the songs by writers such as Mark Seymour and Nicholas himself. The show's theme song, you may remember, was Blame It On John Wayne, the archetypal hero who virtually invented machismo for white-bread film audiences.

As the lyrics suggest, no one taught us to be men, so who can we blame it on that so many of us have stuffed up? Perhaps we look to the feminist critique of Germaine Greer or, more likely, the phoney machismo of John Wayne. Did his heroic roles raise too high an expectation of what men were capable of achieving?

Certified Male left a lot of teasing questions of that kind in its original production. Whether circumstances have changed so much that different answers need to be found for a new generation will be played out in this production.

At the same time as Nicholas prepares for his return to Perth he is negotiating for a production with a British cast to enter London's West End. British audiences (apart from the Edinburgh Fringe) have never seen Certified Male but the show is due to open in Leicester in the English Midlands next month.

"West End producers are coming to see the show in Leicester, and what we're waiting on is for a theatre to become available," Nicholas says.

The West Australian

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