Mediocre White Male
Will Close and Joe von Malachowski
A man stands, still and grey as stone, eerily garbed in pale Elizabethan clothes; he speaks of his woes, the tragedy of his betrayal, and beckons in all those who dare to hear his tale. Only he isn’t a statue, or a ghost, but rather an actor at Wiltshire Castle, playing a little known murdered nobleman. In between his occasional performances to passing groups of tourists, he regales his own story, that of a 30-year-old man, falling out of touch with the “over-sensitive” next generation.
Throughout the play, Will Close, who plays the nameless protagonist, spins the yarn of his life, his problems at work, enforced gender sensitivity training courses, and his love for a girl who has recently died, revealing more and more as the narrative pans out in fits and starts.
It’s probably no accident that Close is literally embodying a statue of a rich, historic, white, male patriarch, who, it’s much alluded to, made his money in problematic ways. Indeed, the coding in the play goes to great lengths, in many ways too far, to hammer home that this represents a lot of the ills of modern society, particularly in regards to recent cultural conversations on race, class and gender politics in the UK.
In some ways, the play shows its hand far too early. Even from the start, it feels unlikely this tale is going to lead to anything redemptive, as the man’s story begins petulantly, and only goes downhill from there. That said, the power of the piece isn’t in some great thunderclap of a revelation, but more in the constant self-delusion of it all. The fragments of clearly unreliable storytelling and bare-faced revisionism are plain throughout the tale.
Close is exceptional in his performance, managing to coax and wring every ounce of natural charisma and likability out of this wannabe jack-the-lad, interspersing the moments of pathos and seriousness with great comic timing and simple physical humour using the set and few props. The ending may be more or less in sight depending on how much you’ve been paying attention throughout, but it still holds surprises, and in the end, it’s a reflection of not only the harm people can cause others, but the narcissistic self-deceit that can lie at the root of it.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan