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Fringe Review: Angry Alan @ Underbelly Cowgate


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In the pit of Underbelly’s dark and intimate Big Belly venue, multi-award winning playwright Penelope Skinner triumphs with her one-man show Angry Alan which sees a catastrophically accelerated timeline of a white man’s toxic masculinity flare with devastating familiarity.

Images courtesy of Chloe Nelkin consulting

We both willingly and slightly fearfully follow the monologue of Roger, “Mr Kentucky”,  performed by American actor Donald Sage Mackay. Roger agonises over his strained relationship with his ex-wife, distant son and feminist girlfriend and claiming victimhood in the wake of 21st century Feminism. Roger, through self-proclaimed self-defence, becomes engrossed with a radical Men’s Right’s website. From then on, life functions for the protagonist through a new bullish adrenaline and with a whole “woke” meaning despite the inevitable dire consequences.

The performance invites the audience to survey the systematic revelations of Roger’s psychological battles though does not ask of us to share Roger’s besotted belief that, according to his radical sources, Feminism is a “Gynocentric regime” which wishes to eradicate all men and rob them of their masculine identities. This is where Skinner and Mackay’s writer-actor and wife-husband creative dynamic illuminates as successfully inclusive rather than reproducing more ideological division on gender. Roger represents an archetype that some audience members may seek to silence and bury as an unwanted voice and yet Skinner’s message is clear – Roger’s perspective exists today with the playwright adding that “in the wake of Trump’s election, we started thinking of ways to respond artistically”.

Skinner’s darkly comic writing manages to balance an anti-safe space policy whilst simultaneously not accepting the rationalisation of sexism or any unjust claim to supreme power. Angry Alan provides an insight into male loneliness and an individual’s anxiety over social change and further explores the blurry lines a father will cross to reinstate authority when shouting the phrase “I’m your father” doesn’t gain an instant bow of respect.

Just being male no longer has the same punch and sheer mania ensues. Mackay is as engaging and fervently compelling as Roger, the deranged and privileged character can be. There is something both necessary and deeply concerning in the way Mackay convinces the audience with a forceful naivety that he can restore the world with one aggressively conclusive strategy.

As a small part of the Big Belly’s caved wall crumbles, allowing for Scottish rain droplets to fall down to the floor, and the monologue closes, I felt that the platform for this character is necessary, on the premise that moral voyeuring seeps into our lives on a daily basis - when we least expect it. Just like the predator of the show, the projector screen that displays intermittent and re-constructed Youtube clips of anti-feminist conditioning from angry Alans, shows how the internet can be a false friend and also the best comfort blanket. Skinner warns us, however, that particular choices won’t result in cosy conclusions. 

Catch Angry Alan at Underbelly Cowgate (Big Belly) until 26th August. Ticket info can be found here.

This article is part of our coverage of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Click here to read other articles written by our contributors. 

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