Our character Roger is a white, middle-aged man, an unremarkable American, who appears before us in his everyday jeans, checked shirt and trainers. We soon learn he’s divorced, with a son, and that his girlfriend Courtney recently started Women’s Studies at the local College. It's brought a new dynamic between them, now she has a new understanding of her sex’s suffering in relation to men. Roger notes there is no similar course for his gender – but an afternoon’s surfing connects him to ‘Angry Alan’ and discovery of ‘gynocentric sexism’. Roger determines that now ‘things are going to change around here’, and that he will not be silenced or unquestioningly accept Courtney’s new pronouncements.
Donald Sage Mackay’s delivery is polished and deadpan, and his character is accessible for it: I doubt anyone left thinking badly of Roger. Instead he attracts an unusual understanding, as he suffers Courtney kicking him in a restaurant – he dared to espouse a view on ‘Modern American Woman’ who ‘wants it all her own way’. Maybe he has a point when he says how confused some men are with women who want their ‘own career. And a rich guy to treat her like a princess…’ And he’s surely right when he says he’d be accused of abuse were he to kick Courtney in public like that.
Roger is just a guy. Actually, he’s a likeable guy. Should we discriminate against him for historical misdeeds against women, by dint only of his sex and race?
On the way out of the Big Belly I overheard a young lad comment that he had found the show ‘interesting, because it wasn’t difficult to feel sorry for him’. I wondered whether the play’s writer Penelope Skinner would have been pleased by this response, but for me this comment is indicative of the current zeitgeist, where generally it’s accepted that white middle-aged men are a breed apart – and the very idea they any among them may be vulnerable or deserve our sympathy is unfashionable, unthinkable.
For a refreshing and accessible contribution to the conversation we are having about men, and about women’s rights, Roger gets my vote. To stand by Roger does not obviate solidarity with women, or anyone who speaks out. I hope the lad I overheard found meaningful conversation about his perspective on Roger after the show.
On the day I attended there were technical hitches, which prevented us from seeing video clips which had been lined up to accompany the storytelling, and bring alive Angry Alan himself. But no matter; this thoughtful script turning sexual politics on its head lost nothing in Mackay’s safe hands.