Soho Theatre, London – until 30 March 2019
Guest reviewer: Jake Laverde
There’s something very timely in Penelope Skinner’s portrait of a lost man finding refuge in the “men’s rights movement”. The recent rise of the far right, the mainstreaming of terms like ‘Red pilling’ and of course Trump’s ascendency to the leader of the free world are all parts of the same terrible sickness we’re currently living through.
Roger, the narrator of this piece, is a likeable middle-aged everyman that life has dumped upon. Made redundant from his job, divorced and only able to see his teenage son rarely, he still maintains a chipper front as he ekes out a perfectly average life falling down rabbit holes on the internet. It’s when he stumbles across youtube meninist ‘Angry Alan’ that he starts to find a new purpose in his life.
Dotted intermittently through the performance are actual YouTube clips of men’s rights activists claiming that the world is controlled by the ‘evil wimmins’ and their manipulative vaginas. These clips raise a few chuckles in the audience but to self-pitying men like Roger, they’re an awakening. And we witness Roger’s descent as he tries to spread the word of meninism.
As someone who in the current vernacular is Extremely Online, I’ve seen the MRA movement grow from a fragmented collection of bitter cranks to a media network of angry reactionaries preaching to hundreds of thousands of angry young men who blame the mainstreaming of feminism for everything wrong in their life. And as timely as Skinner’s work is, as a result of the fast-changing world of the internet it already feels dated. Attempting to grasp the zeitgeist always runs the risk of ageing quickly but the world that Skinner presents here is already obsolete thanks to the “alt-right” rising stars of youtube and their young audience.
But here, Skinner has captured the predatory nature of the Angry Alans of the world well as they play into the paranoia of men trying to find their place in a world that once promised them everything. A chance encounter with a feminist at a conference instills some doubt in Roger and leads into an emotive finale. However as compelling as this portrait of a man is, I’m not sure that it sticks the landing, ending with an uncertain full stop rather than a pointed exclamation mark.
Donald Sage Mackay plays Roger as a slightly goofy sitcom dad which gives this work a nicely sinister undercurrent as he envelopes himself totally in Alan’s teachings. But it’s only towards the end we get a sense of the intensity of Roger’s inner rage and it would have been great to see Mackay get to cut loose a little. But despite these nitpicks, Skinner does a fine job in giving the current sickness a human face and voice.
Angry Alan is on at the Soho Theatre until 30 March https://sohotheatre.com/shows/angry-alan/