In one of two plays she’s presenting at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Penelope Skinner delves into the men’s rights movement. It’s far more rewarding than her other play, Meek, a disappointing dystopian drama at the Traverse Theatre, though it shares with it some preoccupations.
Roger, a divorced father who has recently been laid off from his job, becomes ensconced in an online community that bemoans what they see as the gynocentricism of society. He’s feeling vulnerable and isolated, and he finds solace in these men and their views.
Donald Sage Mackay plays Roger with an almost aggressive geniality. He tries to be a good man, a good dad, and worries – with justification – about the high suicide rate among men. He wants to offer what help he can. He’s reasonable and yet the ideas of the men’s rights movement appeal to him.
Skinner’s production intercuts Roger’s growing fascination with cultish men’s rights guru Angry Alan with real videos. But in the context of the show they are presented as ridiculous rather than insidious, and the constraints of the running time means the play never gets to dig beneath the surface.
There’s so much stuff it barely touches on: the corporatisation of the movement, the way it manifests in vicious online attacks, the overlap with far-right politics. The final plot twist also feels heavily signposted and forced in its extremity, jarring with much of the play’s more measured approach.