Tag Archives: Penelope Skinner

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

 

Eigengrau – 1 Star

Eigengrau

Eigengrau

Greenwich Theatre

Reviewed – 1st August 2018

“time has not been kind to Penelope Skinner’s slight four-hander”

 

Four young people in two flat shares in London: Cassie, a committed feminist activist, shares with Rose, a sweet hippy-dippy type; Mark, doing well in the marketing world, shares with his old University buddy Tim, who’s a bit of a waster. At the play’s opening, Mark wakes up in the girls’ flat after a night with Rose, and encounters Cassie, who is almost immediately triggered into launching into an angry feminist tirade at him, which, who would have guessed it, gets Mark going something rotten, and, he eventually manages to seduce her, using exactly the same tactics he used on the unfortunate Rose. What a snake, hey? At the play’s close, Mark ends up alone, Cassie experiencing her womanhood in an entirely new way, and Rose pretty much entirely dependent on the hapless Tim, who has finally managed to let go, both literally and figuratively, of his dead Grandma.

If this sounds pedestrian and predictable, it’s because it is. Time has not been kind to Penelope Skinner’s slight four-hander, and its handling of gender politics seems unbelievably clumsy and cliché-ridden in 2018. A lot has happened in eight years. That being said, a prickly feminist who likes to be dominated in bed was satirical stock-in-trade in the 70s – which makes the decision to revive this piece now all the more difficult to understand.

Although the writing is decidedly creaky, the dialogue is nonetheless sprinkled with whippy one-liners, and there are a couple of big theatrical moments to play with. Sadly, neither the acting nor the direction in this production was good enough to take advantage of these strengths. The direction was as pedestrian as the plot, and as a result the piece lacked both colour and drive. Why, oh why, were both the big moments visually masked? One by a strobe; the other by a barely lit stage? Penelope Skinner wrote the fellatio scene in to her play for a reason. It is the audience who should be squirming here; not the director.

Joseph McCarthy managed to lift Mark off the page, but the other characters remained resolutely one note and failed to breathe beyond the boundaries of their stereotype. Seldom has there been such unconvincing smoking on stage, or a more laughable slap in the face. And there was certainly nothing erotic about the central seduction scene. In addition, the intrusive and badly-managed sound design only underlined the production’s overall lack of atmosphere.

Eigengrau is ‘the uniform dark grey background that many people report seeing in the absence of light’. It is a strange title for a piece of theatre, but, in this particular case, peculiarly apt.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Victorine Pontillon

 


Eigengrau

Greenwich Theatre until 11th August

 

 

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