Mr Incredible

There are plenty of plays at this year’s Fringe which criticise gender norms and take on patriarchal systems, but Mr Incredible truly gets to the heart of the kind of beliefs that lead many men to do terrible things. Playwright Camilla Whitehill, following the success of last year’s Where Do Little Birds Go?, delivers a nuanced exploration of how a man can commit an unforgivable act and not even realise it.

A nuanced and tense piece, unafraid of uncomfortable truths

Adam (Alistair Donegan) is newly single and still pining after his ex-girlfriend Holly. Far from being a straw man with the kind of personality we would expect from entitled men, Donegan plays a character visibly under pressure. He cracks jokes, his voice shakes from fear and confusion, and at one point he’s sick in a pot plant. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Adam is incapable of thinking beyond himself and the narrative deliberately silences Holly’s viewpoint.

Adam easily could have been a representation of all that’s bad in men but it is to Whitehill’s credit that the narrative is more nuanced than that. Adam has a heightened sense of the ways in which he doesn’t conform to conventional masculinity – he sings Madonna to himself and longs for a child, musing “quite a feminine attitude isn’t it”. The aura Donegan gives off demands the audience’s sympathy in a manner just shrill enough to suggest self-pity and narcissism. It’s also interesting that, though clearly in the right, Holly is less than perfect and some of Adam’s grievances initially seem justified.

From fairly early on it’s easy to see where the narrative is heading which just makes it all the more sickening when it reaches its climax. Some astoundingly good electronic music from Benedict Taylor – reminiscent of Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s Utopia soundtrack – adds a layer of strangeness and tension to proceedings.

My only real criticism is that there are some lines near the end of the play that make the point of Adam’s entitlement far too bluntly. Adam believes he has done no wrong and the best parts of Whitehall’s script allow us only to fleetingly peek past his egocentrism. It believably emphasises that even seemingly innocuous men are capable of appalling acts while also highlighting that the pressure put on women to choose between their career and family life is not as outdated as we would like to believe.

Mr Incredible is a feminist drama which subtly explores some important issues and somehow reserves some of its sympathy for its hateful protagonist who is led to an inflated view of his own worth by societal norms. It is a nuanced and tense piece, unafraid of uncomfortable truths and rarely resorting to broad brushstrokes that make Adam a one-dimensional villain. 

Reviews by Simon Fearn

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The Blurb

Adam is single. He doesn't like it. He misses Holly. He deserves Holly. Doesn't he? A brutal new play about modern love and old-fashioned entitlement, from the award-winning writer/director team behind sell-out Fringe 2015 hit Where Do Little Birds Go? Praise for Where Do Little Birds Go: 'A low-key triumph' **** (Times). 'Heartbreaking' **** (Daily Mail). 'Warm, evocative and intelligent' **** (Stage).