If schools want a ‘Keeping Yourself Safe’ presentation on incel culture, then they won’t have to look further than Sam Went’s Red Pill. Directed by Lois Attard, Red Pill tells the story of Chris (Sam Toocaram) who, after his friend Cassie (Amy Harrison) starts dating someone else, gets pulled further into the right-wing gamergate conspiracy and the dark side of the internet. It’s your typical love story; boy falls for girl, girl starts dating someone else and boy becomes a misogynist to justify why girl owes him a relationship.
There is a sort of nostalgia watching a group of millennials sit around a messy flat, drinking and having strange conversations. And it was those moments of camaraderie that stood out and were more enjoyable than the dominant plot of Red Pill. The show is very informational. It does a good job of explaining the origins and development of the incel community, especially for those of us who don’t know much about it beyond its right-wing, misogynistic and white supremacist tendencies. However, it avoids the more violent aspects of incel culture that we see in the news. It got to the point where there was an expectation for something more to happen just to make the play more interesting and less flat.
The use of multimedia is incredibly helpful, as we can see Chris’ fall through the rabbit hole for ourselves, even though it is ever so slightly hampered by the occasional technical difficulty and the overall suddenness with which it happened. Apart from the initial rejection, the play didn’t explain how he stumbled onto the gamergate forum in the first place. However, this visual aid directs us, from Tyler’s (Cai Sutherland) videos to the chatroom in which we can see the mob mentality, violent dialogue and Nazi memes, all of which is genuinely horrifying and adds to the play’s overall atmosphere.
One thing that the cast struggled with is enunciation. Some words just got lost, making us lose sight of the plot on occasion. Toocaram’s arc goes from the stereotypical ‘nice guy’ to an angry and indoctrinated figure happens incredibly gradually, yet it is not entirely clear how the character came to the gamergate forums in the first place, so the progression does not make sense. And considering how well the relationships between Chris and his friends are established at the beginning, the pace of indoctrination and lack of overall rational thought seems unbelievable and incredibly sudden. The lack of rationality is made up by Michael Hogg’s portrayal of Joe, providing some light relief and a voice of reason. With impeccable comedic timing, Hogg is definitely the best part of the show. Sutherland deserves a special shout-out for his ability to come off as a completely unattached sociopath and for appearing so distinctly chilling in all of his videos, as well as not balking at the script that he was given.
All in all, Red Pill is a decent effort in establishing a dialogue and context into a very real and pressing issue. However, the reliance on its informativeness makes it less like a piece of theatre and more like a poorly dramatised part of a documentary.