Review: Mancoin, VAULT Festival

Enter Guy White. A seemingly harmless 20-something cis white male played by the endearing Hubert Burton. Mancoin, a bold addition to the 2019 VAULT Festival, explores a stereotype constantly plaguing the media with its domination of wealth and stature in the modern world. Well, within any and all worlds, past and present. With its striking use of light and sound, Mancoin entertains and provokes the audience through a struggling experience of introspection.

Guy is pitching his million-dollar entrepreneurial plan to another (assumed) cis white male who has already reached millionaire status. His idea revolves around a cryptocurrency – because of course it does – accurately baptised “w0ke” that aims to give back to the world with every use. Guy is woke. Guy wants to make the world a better place. Guy deserves the added bonus of endless riches. His plan also has the benefit of one upping his girlfriend Polly, an echoing voice rather than a real human being (what use are real female characters anyway?), who, like Guy, is intending to make it big in the tech world.

This play demonstrates blanket coverage of white male systematic oppression. Guy takes the audience through the inner workings of his brilliant (cough) mind as he battles his way through the many problems of being a white male in a post-Me Too era. Because he is a man, and not a “black, blind, lesbian, Jew”, he is unable to get the necessary funding for his woke project.

The play is darkly satirical, aware of the problems which itself contributes to. It is ironic, and perhaps hypocritical, in its message of men needing to do better whilst also having the very man it is trying to improve, helm the show. A man, Felix Legge, even holds the writing credits. However, director Anna Fox ensures its careful execution as she guides it through the murky waters it ambitiously jumps into. It is aggressive, and accurate, in its appraisal of the problem of man. It can’t be denied that Legge is hilarious and brilliantly ballsy as he tackles a damning social commentary of the generation that coined the endlessly problematic friend zone. We are still a way off gender, racial and sexual equality and Guy White, Fox and Legge are here to remind us why.

Guy is accompanied by an all-female ensemble. He tells the audience how much Polly hates being spoken over, whilst speaking over her. Shazia Nicholls, Suzie Preece and Gabby Wong contribute some much-needed feminine energy as the many voices of reason, namely that of Polly and her sister, but are blissfully ignored by both Guy and the audience. Burton pulls the focus. Polly is not simply Guy’s girlfriend, but all women who have had to deal with mansplaining, overbearing partners, bosses and friends. Although, as he gleefully proclaims, Guy may believe that James Bond should be black, and that Q should be surrounded by characters named L, G, B and T, he is unsurprisingly entitled. As his rejection from investors triggers a sort of drunken retaliation, we witness the creation of the radical cryptocurrency Mancoin, sold and bought purely by men. An internet frenzy ensues, and Guy is forced to face his misogynistic demons.

The whole ordeal is painfully relevant. It mirrors the ease with which men are able to succeed in an already male-dominated sphere. He is a fictional Dan Mallory (see The New Yorker profile which has recently blown up), Donald Trump, or indeed any man who unintentionally or through deceitful means obtains all that he has ever dreamed of, and more than he can handle.

Whilst Guy White comes to the realisation that his whiteness and innate ‘guy’-ness creates his privilege, many men won’t. Mancoin’s comedic roots make its message easier to swallow, but the seriousness of the subject, and the realisation that people do actually act and think this way, will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Though don’t worry, the experience is worth the unease.

Mancoin is playing at the Vaults Festival until 10 February. For more information and tickets, see the VAULT Festival website.