Imagine the world without the technological advances of the last few decades. No mobile phones, no internet, no ipods. Just Walkmans and two-way radios and clunky TV sets – but the political landscape is still the same. Where will all the incels gather without reddit?
This devised play by American students studying abroad in Edinburgh posits that a secret walkie-talkie frequency is used to recruit misogynists to a secret lair in an unnamed university. From there, they go on ‘raids’ in their town, which are basically analogue versions of sending nudes ’round Snapchat. Samuel and his sister Wendy are the central characters – he is disaffected and lonely, she is an activist. Freshly rejected by the girl he fancies in the donut shop, Samuel is ripe for recruitment.
Part of the issue with this piece is that the impact of these ‘raids’ is minimised in an analogue world. Copies of polaroids scattered around someone’s workplace when no one is actually there are quickly cleaned up by the woman who initially took the photos for her boyfriend. This is distressing of course, but the impact doesn’t compare to what women have to actually endure in today’s digital world.
What does read effectively is the hate and violence that incels demonstrate. The large cast size adds impact and reinforces that they aren’t lone voices shouting into the abyss, but a huge movement gathering steam. A Jordan Peterson-esque figure is their leader, but he is a student at the university – though powerful within his local sphere, his impact is minimised by this analogue framing.
There are great intentions at work here, but the initial concept is flawed – ultimately it undermines the power that the internet and technology gives to the alt-right.
The Abode runs through 16 August.
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