FringeReview UK 2019
Penelope Skinner again directs this first London outing at Soho Theatre’s Top Studio, with Donald Sage Mackay reprising his solo role as Roger. With virtually no props – two chairs and Stanley Orwin-Fraser’s real videos of men’s right movement leaders – there’s simply Peter Small’s clean lighting and Dominic Kennedy’s deft sound.
In 2016 Penelope Skinner’s last major play Linda addressed the pressures on a top woman executive to succeed in a patriarchy. In Angry Alan Skinner turns patriarchy on itself.
Fresh from an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, Skinner again directs this first London outing at Soho Theatre’s Top Studio, with ‘co-creator’ (though not writer) Donald Sage Mackay reprising his solo role as Roger. With virtually no props – two chairs and Stanley Orwin-Fraser’s real videos of men’s right movement leaders – there’s simply Peter Small’s clean lighting and Dominic Kennedy’s deft sound. Nothing but their punctuation interrupts Mackay’s storytelling.
Roger’s an ex-executive, divorced with a partly-estranged son. Now working as complaints manager living with his girlfriend Courtney, he ‘falls into a google-vortex’ one morning after breakfast and finds the eponymous Angry Alan. Alan’s promulgating ‘meninism’ with complaints of a ‘gyrocracy’. The world’s run by women. Don’t laugh – though all of us did. There’s hundreds of thousands of men who think so. Skinner wants us to laugh till we see where we don’t.
Roger seems affably reasonable, self-deprecating, though something’s clicked with him: after seeing Angry Alan videos he tries out his second-hand gripes on Courtney. Especially as she’s on a feminist course as part of her degree. Courtney’s even more non-plussed on an evening out with women friends when Roger speaks up for a male harasser. Tweeting’s not calling the police they counter, and to kicks under the table Roger soon kicks his relationship.
Especially when Courtney discovers he’s ruinously paid up plus donated to go meet Alan himself at a Cincinnati convention. And there’s Honey Badgers, women who support men. Roger mistakes an attractive New York journalist for one. Through her Skinner skewers Roger’s prejudice with slivers of truths. Skinner dissects brilliantly the way male suicide rates have been appropriated by the men’s movement to prove their arguments. It’s never patriarchy and capitalism that inflicts this. Oh and that donation giving you a gold-tipped badge? Alan pockets it all.
This is where Roger’s life and politics collide. His son Joe can only meet this weekend, so he arranges a camping for them and can miss the conference middle. Skinner’s added a redemptive last section to the original text, ending with ambiguity and a gesture. It transforms the punchy, too-neat climax and adds a much-needed tender riposte.
Sixty-five minutes is perhaps enough for the scope of the play – Mackay’s a superbly confident dissimulator of the new normal in the world of Trump and those who (as I write) invoke him when perpetrating massacres. Within its scope this can hardly be improved on, though it’s not Skinner at full throttle so much as speed-reading events without exploring them at the pitch she managed for instance in Linda. It’s nevertheless funny, sassy, disturbing, necessary. The text is twinned with the equally brief Fucked, about the #metoo movement, and you wonder where Skinner might be headed in her next full-length work.