Created by Will Close and Joe von Malachowski
Manipulation is perhaps our cruellest and most devastating tool. And there’s a category of people who have been perfecting this technique for centuries. You’ll find them chiselled in the marble of history, adorning the emerald walls of clubhouses and private venues, much like the ones you’ll find in Warwickshire Castle, where a troubled man opens up to the fictional audience of the hardship endured and the struggles after losing a loved one.
Mediocre White Male’s subtlety is dependant on audiences, and while a touch heavyhanded in moments, the core of the show carries merit. Small nuggets suggest the connections between performer and creator Will Close’s character and the statue he plays, coding the script with flourishes of ill-gotten wealth, ‘sublime’ picturesque masculinity and racial and class divisions. A petulant man, playing a role grander than the life he leads, begins with a sob story, a pity party, as he discusses the woes and trials he has endured in his short, apathy induced thirty years.
Divisive, Close and Joe von Malachowski’s production will turn audiences away, not out of quality, but out of subject matter, or worse, a failure to grasp the commentary and inspirations. Written with a meticulous comprehension of a contriving man, the story is one-sided as the reverse is never fully divulged. The audience hears of the hurt, the unfair circumstances and the explanations as Close’s unnamed character’s story is told – yet it’s evident there’s a reason we aren’t given the entire story.
Unnerving, the performance element maintains a steadily engrossing concept as a historical performer slips in and out of character as a murdered Lord, breaking up the more difficult moments with elevations. Humorous, these breaks tend to be the better parts of the show, some with genuine moments of clever humour, even tying into the foreshadows of what is to come.
Dangerous, this narcissistic predator, garbed in the gaslighting veil of self-pity, Mediocre White Male grapples with a misguided sense of self-loathing and insecurity in a portion of men who feel abandoned by a shifting dynamic. If he wasn’t so downright captivating in the role, you’d have to hate Close. The dripping charisma, the attempted ‘banter’ with the crowd, every ounce of likability conjures a character that you may know, and not realise is a potential threat.
And perhaps in the most terrifying of critiques is that Mediocre White Male doesn’t sink to the level of depravity it warns. Now, this is not to devalue the topics and experiences, and perhaps a statement of desensitisation, but the build-up to the crucial unveiling of the story doesn’t deliver the stomach churn. There’s wiggle room for the direction to push the production, to be bold and brandish the production with a resounding mark. The revelations don’t come as blindsided or awe-inspiring, but the talent comes from the ability to restructure the narrative to Close’s choosing, the self-evident revisionist attitudes and the puppeteering of storytelling.
Its final remark, however, is precisely the infuriating conclusion required. And if audiences don’t feel a surge of scorching blood, then there’s a reason for shows like this to exist. Mediocre White Male may progress a series of similar growing narratives, but its aesthetical construction and rejection of lad-humour to convey toxic masculinity and fragile ego is worthy of distinction.
Mediocre White Male runs until August 15th. Tickets are available here