Walking into the dark depths of the Big Belly at Underbelly, my expectations are low as I take my seat and note there’s a leak in the roof above my chair. My eye catches the on-stage screen, scrolling through social media tweets and posts featuring anti-feminist ‘men's rights activist’ rhetoric about the oppression of men. Donald Sage Mackay appears on stage, as if he’s about to deliver a TedTalk in his American drawl, and as he starts to speak, the audience are immediately rendered spellbound.
Challenging, provocative and dark, with a powerful gut punch that will leave you speechless and forever changed.
Mackay regales us with the cry of white male middle class America as he delivers a spectacular, satirical synopsis of how one man - ‘Rodger’ - falls prey to the pervasive influence of the men's rights movement at a vulnerable period of his life. Ripe for radicalisation, Rodger has lost his high-powered job, can barely afford to pay child support for the son he never sees and is looking for someone to blame. Sick of self-loathing, Rodger’s misplaced belief and blind faith in a movement designed to deflect and blame takes him on a liminal journey to take back control. However in doing so, he risks loses everything.
Mackay delivers a spectacular, satirical synopsis of the Google vortex within which he finds Angry Alan, and his red pill moment when he was awakened to the concept of the societal ‘gynecratic regime’. He builds us up to a gut-wrenching climax, which moved the audience so far that there were people in tears at the end. This is testament to both Mackay’s convincing, passionate performance in which he connects with the audience through intense eye contact and tone. He expertly utilises the stage, moving around and intertwining himself with the full range of the crowd which created an intimate backdrop in which we all became voyeurs.
This is a bold and innovative confrontation of gender politics, and writer Penelope Skinner very skilfully sets out a scene which conflicts the audience in many ways. We know Rodger is flawed; we know Angry Alan is exploitative; yet there is a plausibility which allows us to enter the mindset of the men’s right activist and inhabit it for a few uncomfortable moments. Mackay delivers a raw, real and relatable performance as we watch on, powerless, as Rodger unravels, and Skinner’s message is abundantly clear. The ending packs a punch which demonstrates Skinner’s deeper understanding of gender politics, of the binaries which attempt to entrap us and perpetuate the patriarchal systems of oppression, and how these damage men almost as much as they damage women.
Anyone leaving this performance unmoved has to be made of stone. Challenging, provocative and dark, with a powerful gut punch that will leave you speechless and forever changed.