Soho Theatre, London – until 30 March 2019
Robert’s an average guy down on his luck, living with his girlfriend after being made redundant and wishing he could see his son more. Still bitter about his divorce and losing his job, he passes time wondering aimlessly around the internet. When he emerges from a YouTube rabbit hole that led him to the user Angry Alan, Robert feels like he’s woken from a long sleep. The Men’s Rights Movement has gained another disciple.
Penelope Skinner’s monologue documents the transformation of an everyday, middle-aged dad into a rabid incel and the consequences this has on those around him. Skinner, who also directs, artfully uses comic timing and Donald Sage Mackay’s subtle delivery to punctuate the absurdity of the movement’s tenets. Robert is disempowered and laughed at, he is made pathetic rather than enabled.
Though MRAs are a very real danger to women’s health and safety, Skinner chooses not to present them in their authentic form, which would potentially cause audience trauma through uncritical recreation. Instead, Robert is heightened just enough to make a mockery of the misogynists, though as his choices begin the impact those around him, the laughs gradually diminish. We feel for them rather than him, and hope that the open ending sees his rehabilitation.
The set-free staging indicates the creeping infiltration of Robert’s adopted beliefs throughout supposedly progressive nations, and also serves to draw attention to the YouTube-pulled videos showing the sort of people poisoning the minds of mediocre men feeling threatened by feminism. Mackay completely holds the space with his committed characterisation, and the hour passes quickly.
No single line is out of place, and the balance of the comic with tragic is spot-on. This is an angry little show with huge impact that smartly appropriates the rampant misogyny of its subject flipping the mirror so all its flaws are magnified.