Review: Angry Alan (Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh Fringe)
One of two Penelope Skinner plays at this year's Fringe, Angry Alan sees Donald Sage Mackay perform a monologue about the rise of 'meninism'
Writer Penelope Skinner has two shows at the Edinburgh Festival this year and if Meek at the Traverse was an underwhelming representation of her blazing talent, then Angry Alan shows it in all its glory.
It's a monologue, performed by the American actor Donald Sage Mackay, that acutely captures the tone of the meninist movement, so adored by the alt-right. He plays Roger, a man who once defined himself by a good job at AT&T, but who now finds himself divorced, paying alimony and working as the third assistant manager at Safeways – the one the customer gets to complain to.
Then online he discovers Angry Alan, a pioneer of the men's rights movement, who suggests that things have gone too far and that we now live in a "gynocentric society". Alan comforts and sustains Roger. He starts to feel better about himself deciding that the pain he feels in his gut is not bowel cancer ("I googled that too") but a result of suppressing his own suffering. As he begins to assert himself, there are consequences – some predictable but some utterly shocking.
The excellence of this study lies in the way that Skinner and Mackay between them make Roger seem such a likeable, reasonable man. His words are punctuated by videos (apparently real, from YouTube) where men discuss "the lie" that women are oppressed and the general goodness of men, but these filmed figures are much more obviously scary than the man we see in front of us.
Yet he is saying terrible things. Some are funny "my wife had post-natal depression which was extremely challenging …for me." But others chill to the bone despite the quietness of their utterance. There is an anger boiling inside him that he never recognises and that online gurus such as Alan can easily exploit.
Mckay is superb, and Skinner (who also directs) keeps it both simple and observant. She doesn't seem to judge Roger at all – just to make us see more clearly the dangers of the kind of warped self-realisation he is encouraged by online forums to feel. It is a fierce, clear warning of what is going on, and it is utterly terrifying.