Review: Angry Alan
Image: Soho Theatre
"Looking out over the country, this country, where I was born and raised, I wonder what's going to become of us.
Because this can't be the future, can it?
Everyone just … changing the rules?"
Roger thinks the world's gone mad.
He hates his job, his ex-wife torments him and to top it all, his girlfriend just discovered feminism.
Roger's about to lose his shit.
Until he discovers Angry Alan: online activist and "voice of reason" …
A darkly comic play about masculinity in crisis by award-winning playwright Penelope Skinner, created with and performed by Donald Sage Mackay.
Following a smash-hit sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival, Penelope Skinner's Fringe-First award winning play 'Angry Alan' returns to London.
Before this play begins, comments scroll up a screen from what seems to be a men's chat room that provides participants with a platform to rail against women and feminism, and to bemoan the changed status of men (at least as some men view it).
From my vantage point, I couldn't make them all out clearly, but the snippets I could didn't make for very comfortable reading, with open hostility and considerable anger in evidence.
That selection of comments - and I assume they're taken directly from a real on-line vehicle rather than being made-up - is actually a well-devised and a highly appropriate lead-in to what is to follow.
But Angry Alan is not merely about the insidious and unacceptable nature of the attitudes found in some forms of social media - where people feel they can anonymously express distasteful and extreme views with impunity.
We do, however, find the influence of social media cropping up again in real (we're told) YouTube videos that intersperse Donald Sage Mackay's well-paced and authentic solo performance.
Roger is a pretty ordinary kind of man who has come to feel like he's "living in a cage"; hard done by, besieged and angry.
It appears he's been given the boot from a well-paid job with a large American company and is now working in a customer facing situation to eek out a living and meet his alimony payments.
The final straw for Roger seems to be when his partner, Courtney, gets involved in feminism.
Then he stumbles across the 'Men's Rights Movement' and a man called 'Angry Alan', whose website rhetoric decries the 'gynocentric society' and which Roger finds instantly appealing as a means to vent his anger and frustration with both his life and the way he thinks the world is heading.
Youtube videos segment the action and provide plenty of humour describing, for example, how men have been the "great and the good" throughout history, and living "lives of sacrifice".
However, the humour in the piece seemed to divide the audience, with some people finding much to amuse them at regular intervals while others sat through the show in near silence (both groups exemplified by those sitting either side of me).
I don't suppose, though, that many of the kind of men who wrote the comments we see before this monologue starts are ever likely to be in attendance at this show - and, if they do fetch up to see it, won't be too eager to admit their attitudes.
There's a rather poignant sting in the tail of this largely mocking piece delivering a sombre tone to the denouement that points to more serious consequences of Roger's inability to understand and relate to his son, adding an emotional punctuation to the final moments.
Angry Alan may seem to direct most of its efforts to gender issues, but Penelope Skinner was, apparently, initially inspired to write about the anger which is "dominating today's political landscape" in the wake of Donald Trump's election.
And the title and much of the action confirms that the play is more about anger, even if that is shown to be directed erroneously and somewhat laughably at gender matters.
With a sell-out Edinburgh run already behind it, Angry Alan looks set to repeat its success with this run, thanks to both well-written storytelling and a commendable, well-defined characterisation from Donald Sage Mackay, and should undoubtedly provoke ample post-show discussion.
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