Reviewed – 8th March 2019
“this saw me laughing out loud – but it’s an uneasy and short-lived laughter”
Reams of scrolling comments with an incel flavour loop down a screen as we take our seats for Angry Alan. ‘Is there a bigger waste of time and money than pursuing a female?’ asks one, concluding that ‘if it wasn’t for their pussies it would be open season on them’. Nice. So begins our all-too credible glimpse into the men’s rights movement.
As the play opens, we’re also told that the YouTube clips we’ll see throughout are all real. I sincerely hope this is dramatic license. They’re nothing more than nonsense, and hard to watch. Amusing, certainly, and this engaged audience at the Soho Theatre crack up at the more ridiculous moments (the allegedly ‘gynocentric’ White House topped by an enormous breast, anyone?). But this narrative of a ‘normal’, even affable, American man falling into the dark side of masculinity in crisis leaves the audience suitably uneasy.
Donald Sage Mackay masterfully (if the gendered language can be overlooked) offers up entertainment as well as depth in this solo performance. Roger could be so many men; divorced, estranged from his son and adjusting to life post-redundancy. Hints of his #everydaysexism flicker early on – he ignores his long-suffering partner, Courtney (who’s studying feminism in her community college course, of which Roger takes a dim view), only to pipe up to request a sandwich. Later he criticises her cooking and grumbles when she starts her washing up mid-argument. The seeds are sown. But the world of men’s rights activist Angry Alan in which Roger finds kinship in is a different league. Sage Mackay brings Roger’s sense of much-missed belonging alive so acutely it’s almost touching.
However, each time our feelings soften, Penelope Skinner’s deft writing resets us. His earnest enjoyment of feeling ‘safe’ acceptance at a men’s rights conference could even be seen as sweetly vulnerable – but lines like ‘she was quite attractive – for a feminist’ remind us of just how deep in the mire our protagonist is.
Roger’s absent son Joe has something he wants to share with his dad, and it’s in this denouement we finally see the extent to which Roger’s exposure to Angry Alan’s material has affected his ability to be open-hearted. The results are dramatic, and the clever use of sound (Dominic Kennedy), light (Zak Macro) and Stanley Orwin-Fraser’s projection (a strength throughout here, with really skilful use of digital) indicate that this at first light performance, has taken a dark turn.
Angry Alan is a deep dive into the underbelly of the community of unhappy men, and we’re left reminded that this is a brotherhood that it harms as much as it supports. On International Women’s Day, this saw me laughing out loud – but it’s an uneasy and short-lived laughter.
Reviewed by Abi Davies
Photography by The Other Richard
Soho Theatre until 30th March
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: