Mediocre White Male

07/08/21

Assembly Roxy, Central

Mediocre White Male is a cunningly structured monologue, which starts with the protagonist (played by Will Close) performing a few lines in character as the resident ‘ghost’ in a stately home somewhere in Winchester. But it isn’t long before those melodramatic proclamations are abandoned and he’s climbed down off his plinth to chat informally with the audience. He confesses himself bewildered by the complexities of modern life, and by sexual politics in particular.

Why can’t he refer to his young female colleagues as ‘girls,’ he wonders? Why must be endure workshops on the subject of gender equality? He’s thirty years old, for goodness sake! Surely his experience must stand for something?

The nuanced script by Close and his co-writer, Joe von Malachowski, might have been better suited to a more intimate venue. In the lofty surroundings of the Assembly Roxy, the opening sections of this feel distanced, rather than just socially distanced – and it takes a while before the narrative really begins to hook me in. But hook me it eventually does, at first making me feel sorry for this much put-upon character, who seems horribly misunderstood by everyone who knows him. Sidelined by his friends, shunned by his colleagues, he nurtures a deep sense of regret for a relationship that went badly wrong, back in his youth. What happened ten years ago has changed his life. He’s now a loner, still working in the uninspiring job that was only meant to be a temporary position.

It’s only as his tale enters its later stretches that I begin to fully appreciate what this story is really about- that what’s actually being related here is a tale of toxic masculinity, one that deftly demonstrates how white male privilege can assert such a powerful grip. The full impact of the deception is cleverly held back until the final line of dialogue.

Okay, if I’m honest, I feel this would work better if the character were older – some of the ‘bewildering’ things our protagonist mentions ought to fit easily enough into the wheelhouse of your average thirty year old – and those early sections would benefit from a more humorous approach. If the audience began by laughing out loud, rather than just chuckling, the monologue’s latter stages would be all the more affecting.

But Close is nonetheless a compelling narrator and it’s an interesting – and thought-provoking – piece of theatre.

3.8 stars

Philip Caveney

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