The social media comments that fill the screen as the audience files in for Angry Alan are provocative enough, and would appear to come largely from positions of ignorance, or at least misplaced fears. One reads, “If she tells you she’s a feminist on the first date, RUN!” As Roger (Donald Sage Mackay) takes to the stage, there’s already a sense of uneasiness about this production, and a general hope that it isn’t an hour of semi-logical, or even completely illogical, arguments against the fairer sex.
The ‘Alan’ in the show’s title appears to be based on ‘Angry Harry’; the audience is told everything in the show is authentic, including the video clips. All I can say in response to that assertion is that I went on YouTube and searched for ‘Angry Alan’, and found some amusement in what I saw. Because what I saw was a man called Alan getting very irate, broadly in the style of Victor Meldrew from the BBC Television series One Foot in the Grave. Both the camera operator and one or two others could be heard chortling away in the background, with justification.
Anyway, Roger introduces himself as a middle manager in a retail store. Not the main manager who sits in his ivory tower, but the guy who must step in and try to alleviate a customer’s frustration once they have had enough and demanded to ‘see the manager’. There’s a continuing subplot involving members of Roger’s family that lasts to the end. His son Joe brings up the topic of gender fluidity; Roger has nothing in his frame of reference on the matter, such that Joe’s frustration manifests itself quite severely. It is, as the locals at the Edinburgh Fringe might put it, a ‘wee bit’ melodramatic. It also seems a little odd, given the even-handed dulcet tones of the rest of the play.
The main plotline is a consideration of the men’s rights movement, which Roger stumbles across online, and gets increasingly obsessed about. A video runs through a list of names – many of history’s best philosophers, religious leaders and politicians (amongst other professions) have all been men. Men are great, and men are good. While it’s a demonstration of what feminists and sympathisers of feminism are up against, the wider point (if I understand correctly) is how easy it is for a level-headed, genial person to be so incredibly extremist – and without having to go off to participate in some resistance movement or other overseas.
It’s all rather chilling. Roger remains a likeable character even as he finds himself agreeing with the concept of the modern world becoming ‘a gynocentric society’ – an interesting, if inept, concept. A thoughtful portrayal of hell having no fury than a reasonable man radicalised.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Roger thinks the world’s gone mad. He hates his job, his ex-wife torments him, his son is in trouble but won’t tell him why. And to top it all, his girlfriend just discovered feminism. Roger is about to lose his shit. Until he discovers Angry Alan: online activist and ‘Voice Of Reason’…
Multi-award winning playwright Penelope Skinner (The Village Bike, Royal Court Theatre; Linda, Royal Court and Manhattan Theatre Club) returns to Edinburgh for the first time since 2009 with the world premiere of Angry Alan, her darkly comic and provocative new play about masculinity in crisis.
Director and Writer Penelope Skinner
Cast Donald Sage Mackay
Producer Francesca Moody Productions in association with Underbelly
@chescmood, @followthecow, #AngryAlan
Notes Ages 14+
Underbelly Cowgate (Big Belly), 66 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1JX
Thursday 2nd – Sunday 26th August 2018 (not 13th), 15:20