Fringe Review: The Year of Magical Wanking

by Jane

This review originally appeared on

The Year of Magical Wanking is Neil Watkins’ one man monologue: a year of dealing with his HIV, living in his dead grandfather’s apartment, with an obsession with violent porn.

While the show’s title will put some off (while enticing many others), the production talks in great detail of subjects which are traditionally seen as taboo, but under Phillip McMahon’s direction, Watkins’ presents these elements of his self-destructive life with fact rather than in crassness.

Much of the subject matter is a risk to place in front of an audience, there is forever the chance that Watkins will horribly offended some people – and no doubt he has – but there in the choice to have such a divisive title is actually needed. There are no pretentions, and nor would there want to be, that this work is for everyone.

Watkins travels from his Dublin home to Manhattan and Helsinki: Manhattan nights shared in parties with celebrities; Helsinki nights with skateboarding teenagers; and in between there are many lonely nights. Nights, primarily, of drugs and wanking.

The one-man performance is largely un-adorned, Watkins moves in a small box marked out in tape on the ground under the harsh light of fluorescents, with sectional ends punctuated with blackness or half light.

The iambic pentameter and rhymes of the script, paired with Watkins’ gently lilting Irish accent create a flow to the text. Our brains easily sit on the text and glide over the words, familiarity with the patterns and the rhyme making the text easily absorbed.

And still I failed to connect through the performance; both to Watkins and to the audience. The audience at the Fringe opening night felt oddly disconnected from each other – rather than sharing a collective experience, it felt that the audience were sitting on many different planes. There was a disconnect between audience members and between the audience and Watkins, and the gaps between these spaces increased with every lonely, hesitant laugh.

The Year of Magical Wanking is a series of deeply personal tales, interesting stories performed with skill. What the barrier between me and the performance was I don’t know.

THISISPOPBABY in association with Theatre Works and Daniel Clarke presents The Year of Magical Wanking, written and performed by Neil Watkins. Directed by Phillip McMahon, designed by Ciarán O’Melia. At AC Arts X space until March 18 with the Adelaide Fringe. More information and tickets.