Tag Archives: Dominic Kennedy

Angry Alan

Angry Alan
★★★★

Soho Theatre

Angry Alan

Angry Alan

Soho Theatre

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

 


Angry Alan

Soho Theatre until 30th March

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
There but for the Grace of God (Go I) | ★★★★ | August 2018
Fabric | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Political History of Smack and Crack | ★★★★ | September 2018
Pickle Jar | ★★★★★ | October 2018
Cuckoo | ★★★ | November 2018
Chasing Bono | ★★★★ | December 2018
Laura | ★★★½ | December 2018
No Show | ★★★★ | January 2019
Garrett Millerick: Sunflower | ★★★★ | February 2019
Soft Animals | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Pickle Jar – 5 Stars

Pickle Jar

Pickle Jar

Soho Theatre

Reviewed – 26th October 2018

★★★★★

“the characters, despite being created only through shifts in Rice’s voice and posture, are three-dimensional and complex”

 

In what presents as a comedy monologue, but quickly evolves into a troubling modern tale, Maddie Rice writes and performs the part of Miss, a well-meaning and slightly prudish teacher. At school, Miss fills the traditional role of a stable, sexless mentor to her precocious charges while in her private life she is between relationships and desperately at sea amid the dangers of urban dating. The comic potential of two worlds in conflict is successfully mined for the first half, as Rice skilfully conjures a recognisable collection of characters.

Then, just as we wonder where all this is going, a tragic event at school triggers Miss to begin to unravel. Fighting off the intrusive concern of the school’s councillor, Laura, with her wheedling voice and mindfulness techniques, Miss hits the Pina Coladas and revisits the nightclub where she had experienced an assault at the hands of a colleague, about which she had been silent.

Several details elevate the showcase above the usual wry look at modern life. The direction by Katie Pesskin is crisp, with smart use of lighting (Mark Dymock) and sound (Dominic Kennedy). The script is genuinely funny and the characters, despite being created only through shifts in Rice’s voice and posture, are three-dimensional and complex, from handsome food-tech teacher Eric and jolly but morally bereft flatmate Mairead, to charming Raj at the corner shop and an array of street-wise pupils.

Although this is her writing debut, Rice is an accomplished performer having toured in the stage version of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s ‘Fleabag’ and played various parts in Comedy Central’s ‘Every Blank Ever’. Her role in ‘Fleabag’ provides a jumping off point for the character of Miss, but here the bawdy Saturday Night style is mellowed by an emotional authenticity and pin sharp observation. For example, the simple set (Ben Target and Tom Hartshorne) features two mounds and a sapling to represent the place in a school playing field where the girls have their heart-to-hearts. In the script, too, character is never sacrificed for easy laughs. When Miss admits that it’s high time she bought toilet rolls, kitchen rolls and sausage rolls for the flat, we realise it’s because Mairead has been excusing her these duties, exposing both the flatmate’s softer side and the extent of Miss’s fragility.

All this gives a powerful sense of reality to the show’s narrative and themes, but as serious as these are, the comedy never goes cold. Brilliant writing and performance are vital to pull of this balancing act and this one woman show gives us both barrels.

 

Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Ali Wright

 


Pickle Jar

Soho Theatre until 10th November

 

Previously reviewed at this theatre:
Denim: World Tour | ★★★★★ | January 2018
Dust | ★★★★★ | February 2018
Francesco de Carlo: Comfort Zone | ★★★★ | May 2018
Great British Mysteries | ★★★½ | May 2018
Sarah Kendall: One-Seventeen | ★★★★ | May 2018
Sugar Baby | ★★★★ | May 2018
Flesh & Bone | ★★★★★ | July 2018
There but for the Grace of God (Go I) | ★★★★ | August 2018
Fabric | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Political History of Smack and Crack | ★★★★ | September 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com