Members Not Allowed: Play Cuts Penis

Big changes are often made in the preview period of a new play or musical: songs are added, costumes are changed, penises come and go. What? Huh? That’s right. In “Birthday,” Joe Penhall’s new play at the Royal Court in London, the actor Stephen Mangan’s penis got cut before opening. The drama concerns a man who gives birth. As the playwright explained during an interview with a Guardian contributor last week, in the original script, there was a scene in which the expectant mother-father had to undergo an emergency procedure to his member, which had become inflamed by the pressure of the baby on the prostate gland. For the play, Mangan wears a prosthetic false front, which includes hairy breasts and a nine-month baby bump, below which the flesh suit extends into a pretend penis. But, as Penhall told the story, while the audience at one preview reacted with amused and enjoyable shock to the sight of the character’s female characteristics, they fell into cold and uncomfortable silence at seeing the evidence of his masculinity. The production was ambushed by this moment.

What the dramatist believes to have happened is that theatregoers enjoyed the overall joke, but assumed that the penis was the actor’s own – and so became protective on his behalf, not appreciating that this was another theatrical illusion.

Leave a Comment