EdFringe 2021 Review: Mediocre White Male ★★★

Will Close and Joe von Malachowski co-write Mediocre White Male, examining a thirty-something white male whose fractured narration attempts to reminisce over a former relationship in the context of a world that is changing around him. This study of male bravado in a world of social progression becomes more unsettling as it builds to its harrowing conclusion.

Close leads as our protagonist, a 30 year old rooted in his hometown whose summer job working as a talking statue at a local historical site has lasted longer than expected. Bitter at his friends and former-girlfriend for moving away to various universities and struggling to take on new experiences past his school years, Close’s character remarks on a world changing around him as everyone becoming too oversensitive. Hints at an inner-toxicity are gradually revealed through his unreliable narration which craves empathy, whilst revealing some uncomfortable details from his past.

With the simple staging of a small plinth and Close in period costume as a Tudor Lord – who was ultimately slain by his child bride – Mediocre White Male is contextually draped in history. Close’s protagonist making his living as an uncomfortable historical figure, paralleling his outlook on a world which he dubs as oversensitive and that has abandoned him. Isolated from colleagues and struggling to build meaningful relationships beyond his school life, Close’s character begins by recounting how he was forced onto a Gender Sensitivity training course after offending younger colleagues – remarking that it was not bad as the instructor was attractive. Giving a sense of the troubling outlook of our protagonist early on, we get a sense that as the world goes through periods of inevitable change he feels isolated and rooted in memories of the ‘good old days’.

Close’s character’s unreliable narration delves into the brutality of childhood nicknames, the joy of Pokémon cards, and the appreciation of times with stable pronouns. Hints at his uncomfortable temper gradually shine through the bravado of being a ‘normal lad’ with the character often stating he was only ‘effing and jeffing’. Proceedings take a darker turn as the Close and von Malachowski’s penned monologue delves into our Mediocre White Male’s (MWM) experience at a funeral – an uncomfortable recount of the character being ostracised when attempting to pay respects – our writers cleverly allow a slight hint of sympathy to be felt for the character, but given his previous musings we cannot help but feel cautious about his unreliable slant on events.

Close and von Malachowski’s writing skilfully drops seeds of doubt and unease throughout MWM’s narrative with the character delving into his museum spiel adding to the fractured, tense nature of these recounts. They continually raise questions, having us pondering what the character means by throwaway comments or littering his narration with uncomfortable tone-deaf musings. Beginning as the character’s nostalgic reminiscing, the tone veers into harrowing and brutal forcing him to confront some uncomfortable abusive truths.

There are attempts to break the tension of the monologue with Close’s protagonist delving into his museum character role (advertising the gift shop or launching into Mandarin) – these build up some suspense – often cutting of particularly tense moments during his recount, yet do not often land as intended given the otherwise bleak tone of Mediocre White Male.

Mediocre White Male is a raw and unsettling monologue examining male bravado in a time when it grows increasing irrelevant. Impressive narrative plotting from Close and von Malachowski’s ensures this is absorbing yet uncomfortable, whilst Close’s raw and fractured lead performance is grippingly intense. Attempts at humour should in theory make this an easier watch, but often these feel a little tonally jarring.

Mediocre White Male plays until Aug 15 at Assembly Roxy. Get tickets here.