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Angry Alan

Penelope Skinner
Francesca Moody Productions and Popcorn Group in association with Aspen Fringe Festival and SEARED
Soho Theatre
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Angry Alan is one of those politically right wing populists on social media who are trying to shape social discontent against oppressed groups.

His target is women, though not all women. He thinks “honey badgers” are okay but not the feminist ones that a social media comment describes as a “self deluded hate group”. However, we are not going to see Angry Alan in this 65-minute monologue. Instead, we are going to hear about his impact on the very charming Roger, played with warm affability by Donald Sage Mackay.

Roger has stomach pains he worries might be bowel cancer. He is divorced, paying alimony and concerned about not seeing his son, Joe. After losing his well-paid job with AT&T, he has ended up working as the third assistant manager at Safeways, in the role of someone the company sends out to be shouted at by customers who complain.

Stumbling across the ideas of Angry Alan on social media, he begins to feel pride in himself and decides he too will make a stand against the "gynocentric society". He has finally found something to believe in, never mind it is mostly nonsense which has the audience roaring with laughter. But he is gentle, likable and highly believable, so we hate his words rather than the man.

This is one of those plays you don’t mind being comfortably predictable. You will guess where its going and simply want the ride not to be too bumpy. And it isn't. It’s funny and compassionate. However we can applaud the writer's political point but still find it limited in an important way. The writer clearly doesn't want to give the likes of Trump any decent arguments, so she soft-peddles on the right-wing nonsense. There is hardly anything the play has them say which resembles even a half-baked argument. Even the odd comment that makes you pause for thought is not explored.

Take, for instance, Roger’s argument with his partner Courtney about which sex gets the worst of things. She cites the preponderance of women victims in the statistics of domestic violence. He points out the much higher suicide rate amongst men. Both are true and deserve consideration but the monologue races on, leaving it as just another, if better, example of Roger’s flawed logic. There is nothing remotely persuasive about Roger’s side. We need simply chuckle and tell ourselves that only the seriously stupid could be drawn to their twisted politics.

Roger is in effect a straw man for the dangers of a far right seeking to stir up lethal hate against social groups who have waited too long for society to treat them with respect.

Don’t get me wrong, Angry Alan is an engaging monologue that will make you care about all its characters and even get you to ponder what we do with the problem of Roger. But I couldn’t help feel that the extent of the threat these groups pose to women will require better witness than a play whose trajectory gives you the impression that all Roger needs is a good woman to gently and lovingly take him by the hand and lead him somewhere safe.

Go see the show and see what you think.

Keith Mckenna