Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh
Playwright Penelope Skinner’s new work, Angry Alan, has just received the Fringe First Award for new writing. It was devised by Skinner and her partner Donald Sage Mackay in their living room in the aftermath of the Trump election–and it’s her first show at the Fringe since Fucked in 2009.
The set is minimal–a red chair and an overhead projector the sole adornments in the black space.
Sage Mackay is the only performer, his American accent adding authenticity to the role. The screen displays real video clips from the leaders of the men’s rights movement–a growing “counter-movement” to feminism–Paul Elam, the founder of the men’s rights movement’s flagship website, A Voice for Men, is shown praising Trump, another video explains why all men are great because all the best people in history are men. It’s sort of funny, but then you’re reminded it’s real and then it’s not so funny anymore.
Sage Mackay is brilliant as Roger, a man who has had a bad run of late–he lost his job and his marriage broke down after his wife got postnatal depression, which he describes as “extremely challenging for me.” And to top it all, his girlfriend Courtney has been giving him a hard time since she went to a women’s studies course last year and discovered feminism. His world is changing fast and he doesn’t like it.
“It’s like Beyoncé says,” explains Roger, affably. “Who runs the world? Women. And because of this ordinary men are really beginning to suffer.”
But then Roger finds Angry Alan–an Elam-type character who makes him feel he belongs in the world again–and he suddenly has an outlet for his anger and disappointment. Courtney is very present in the script–we hear her feminist arguments pitted against Roger’s: often Courtney is more rational, but sometimes, Roger has a point. He mentions how 70 percent of suicides in the US are white males. Why?
While Roger’s decision to join the movement is misguided, what he feels about the shifting ground he’s standing on is valid and deserves examination. His desire to redefine his role in relation to women can’t be so easily dismissed as angry white man syndrome.
There were a lot of crossed arms in the audience, a lot of hesitant laughter, but when we left there was also a lot of conversation. It’s a start.
This article appeared in Inews on August 13, 2018, and has been reposted with permission.