x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Defending the Caveman comes to Dubai with 'Joe Mangel'

The internationally successful show that reflects on the war of the sexes is definitely a one-man affair.

Mark Little stars in Defending the Caveman, a one-man show based on the temperamental differences between men and women.
Mark Little stars in Defending the Caveman, a one-man show based on the temperamental differences between men and women.

The differences between the sexes are a subject well-covered. Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus is the obvious title that springs to mind, but there have been approximately a zillion similar books. Flick through Amazon and you'll find He's Just Not That Into You, Why Men Don't Listen & Women Can't Read Maps, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others. The list goes on and on, all offering succour to those among us baffled about why men can't pick up dirty clothes off the floor, or why women can't park their cars.

Bickering over the differences between men and women is not a modern phenomenon though. It wasn't invented with John Gray's Mars and Venus metaphor. It dates back, oh probably to the appearance of men and women on this globe, when they were scavenging around in caves. This was the belief held by the comedian Rob Becker anyway, original author of the one-man show Defending the Caveman. Soon to arrive at the Madinat Theatre in Dubai for a five-night run, it made history in 1996 when the New York production gave its 700th performance and became the longest-running solo show in Broadway history.

In honour of that achievement, the then mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, declared July 18 that year as Caveman Day in New York City. Since then, the show has been translated into 16 languages and played to more than five million people across the world. Sex differences, unsurprisingly, are a universal problem. Part theatre, part comedy and shrink session, Becker started trying out parts of his show out during his time on the stand-up circuit in San Francisco in the late 1980s. From there, he hopped across America, testing material on audiences in Dallas, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Chicago before opening night on Broadway in 1995.

Based on Becker's research into primitive humanity, the resulting 90-minute show devotes itself to explaining why we should blame the irreconcilable differences between man and woman on our hairy, cave-dwelling ancestors. This week's performances won't be starring Becker, however, because he no longer owns it. Instead, the star of the show is the actor Mark Little, more commonly known for his previous role as Joe Mangel from Neighbours. Little has played the role on and off since his debut in London in 2000, when it won an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment.

More significantly, given the subject matter, it is perhaps a more personal role for Little than it might be otherwise, given that his wife, Cathy Farr, directs the show. "She's tweaked it on and off for the past few seasons," says Little in his Australian twang, explaining that it's been upgraded and reinvented to make it more relevant "for the 21st century". "There was too much Oprah Winfrey-type therapy stuff in there before, so we've taken that all out," he says. "It's the 10-year anniversary for me now and it's still a great piece, full of laughter."

Most of the material boils down to the hunter-gatherer approach: men are more single-minded because they needed to focus on their prey; women had to be more widely aware, so they can look after home life and their broods in general. When a man goes to the supermarket, for example, he will "hunt" for a few things, like meat. Women are more nurturing, so they'll view a trip through the supermarket aisles much as if they were stocking up for winter and chuck a good many more items into their trolleys.

Communication is different, too. The script cites that old chestnut - the study indicating that men speak around 2,000 words a day, whereas women utter more than three times that and clock in at around 7,000 words daily. If a man says he'll call you, says the show, then he probably will do. But the time-frame might vary. He means he'll call you sometime before he dies. And should a man walk through the door at the end of the day and remain silent, his wife might assume he's in a grump. Not so. He might just have used up his 2,000-word quota whereas she could have several thousand still to get through. Sound familiar?

Whether you are married or not, it quite possibly will. Given that it has apparently been this way for thousands of years, you might as well laugh it off at the theatre this week.

Defending The Caveman is at the Madinat Theatre from today until Saturday. Tickets available from