Mediocre White Male – Edinburgh review: ‘A clever dissection of the mindset of an abuser’

Assembly Roxy

4-15 August

About £13

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Will Close and Joe von Malachowski co-wrote this one-man-show which delves into the mindset of an abuser. Close plays a 30-year-old man in a dead-end job; unpleasant, yet sympathetic at times – all his school friends have moved on with their lives, leaving him in the same town he grew up in, in the same job, performing as a living statue at a castle – a relic in many senses of the word.

The piece starts with the man (deliberately unnamed, I assume because disturbingly, he represents so many of his type) winning us over with jokes and anecdotes about not understanding gen Z’s proclivities for personal pronouns and having to go on a gender awareness training course. He’s a harmless dinosaur, we think at first – but why is he so fixated on this girlfriend he had in his mid-twenties? And is that vodka he’s pouring into his water bottle?

The monologue is interspersed with his set performance as a living statue, playing a problematic historical figure who he appears to sympathise with and whose story foreshadows his own.

In terms of whether this show should exist – focusing so much as it does on the abuser and silencing his victim – is an ethical question worth thinking about. Did the writers have the idea that predatory men will see this play and think, oh, crap, that’s me? I doubt it, somehow.

The script is clever – creating sympathy for this sad character, then slowly revealing his ignorance of the crime and mental torture for which he was responsible. The protagonist seems highly plausible – the perpetrators of abuse will often believe they are ‘good guys’ and this exploration of that peculiarly narcissistic mindset is chilling. There’s no moment of redemption for him – no sudden revelation, no pathos, and that’s what makes this piece so disturbing. This is a man who could and might get away with it again and again, because he never believed he’d done anything wrong in the first place.