Roger is angry. That’s how he finds Alan. Rather than go on a run, he finds himself trawling through videos and news articles, mining further and further through algorithms of well-packaged clickbait until he arrives at his destination: a YouTube channel managed by ‘Angry Alan’, who posts instructional and self-help videos which promote the ‘men’s right’ movement. As the lights go down in Underbelly, a large projection confirms that all videos used in the performance are authentic videos uploaded to YouTube by ‘men’s rights activists’. This sets the tone of the entire play – a sense of farce, that such a thing can even exist, and also an unsettling sense of threat.
Donald Sage Mackay’s performance as a neurotic ‘nice guy’, hard-working American dad is enthralling. His positioning of Roger is a mixture of light caricature and dark psychology. Mackay is simultaneously harmless and venomous, and as Roger descends further into the cult of personality which surrounds his favourite YouTube star, he begins using terms like ‘gyno-centrism’ (a dominant or excessive favouring of women in civil rights, at the cost of men) and ‘reverse sexism’, with increasing bite and relish. As he decides he is self-empowered, his relationships with others become strained, and he wears his divisive presence like a badge of honour.
This one man show is divided neatly into chapters – each title projected onto the giant screen behind Mackay. Penelope Skinner’s script is precise and truncated. This gives Mackay plenty of room to play with Roger, and moments as simple as ordering a ticket to a conference are a thrill to watch.
Orwin-Fraser’s projections let the audience see the ‘male rights’ landscape in its farcical entirety. The screen is enormous, dwarfing Mackay as he watches male rights videos with an almost devout deference, ignoring laughs of disbelief from the audience. In these moments of self-empowerment he appears at his most miniscule, which provides a fantastic visual contradiction. Other projections allow insight into Roger’s phone and message history, producing some memorable gags.
There were some issues with lighting and tech in the performance, which caused a two-minute stop, and relegated Mackay to the back of the stage in the second half. His response was commendable, and he paced around this space like an animal to keep the energy of the final scenes high. Roger is dangerous, and the new confines imposed on Mackay exaggerated that.
Angry Alan is a dark satire. It provides important social commentary, unflinchingly ridiculing an online movement, whilst also exploring how dangerous it is. Skinner’s script is playful and aggressive, and her direction blends the harmless with the petulant and savage. However, just as the play gets its teeth into the meat of the awfulness, it pulls back – the play promises an inevitable evisceration of Roger, which is eventually realised, but which does not feel particularly emotive. Nevertheless, Mackay, Skinner and the creative team have constructed a powerful and critical assessment of dangerous men and where they go online.
Angry Alan is playing at he Underbelly Cowgate until 26 August. For more information and tickets, click here.
Photo: The Other Richard