Review: Mediocre White Male (Assembly Roxy)
Updated: Jun 1, 2022
Often in monologues, we learn more about a character the less we hear the actual details of their life. The more you avoid discussing the specifics, the more you reveal about their personality. Such is the case for Mediocre White Male, by Will Close and Joe von Malachowski. Close plays said mediocre white male, or MWM for short. He complains about the world and how he fits into it as a straight white man, whilst intermittently leaping back onto his plinth and welcoming guests into a London Dungeons style tourist attraction.
This performance-within-a-performance alone allows us to read so much into Close’s unnamed character without being too explicit. He comments that colour-blind casting at his work would be inauthentic, before the spotlight drops onto him again and he cheerfully encourages some passing tourists to check out the chocolate trebuchets in the gift shop. His mediocrity is exemplified by his performance as a wealthy, privileged monarch from history; a ghost of the unquestioned power that whiteness and masculinity used to guarantee. He clings to what privilege he has and complains bitterly about being left behind as the world moves on around him. But even so, he is still guaranteed a platform, a statue-like presence, and resents the prospect of having to share it with anybody else.
Close’s performance is a balancing act between being pitiable and pathetic. When envisioning a character like this one might picture a cocky, arrogant villain, and anticipate a dramatic fall from grace. In the case of Close’s character, that hubris has already come about. He is unable to see past his entitlement, and insists that “Change is a thief” rather than processing his own abhorrent behaviour. His character is written in such a way that leaves no doubt about whether we as an audience are meant to sympathise with him. As a character who sees himself as a victim of change, it makes perfect sense for him to be played with the same sincerity as anyone who truly believes they are suffering an injustice.
This subtle but outstanding performance is part of what makes Mediocre White Male so engaging and so shocking, along with a script that builds from casual misogyny into an explosive outburst. We are constantly having to ask questions; why doesn’t he have friends? Who is he addressing this monologue to? And because Close’s performance is so understated, we as an audience are discouraged from jumping to conclusions. This is a play that understands all the nuances of its subject matter and has a clear vision for the character they want to create. It can be difficult to watch, but it is impossible to tear your eyes away. Five stars.
Whispers from the Crowd:
It was unsettling. It was really uncomfortable but really well done. He performed amazing to be fair.
It became clear there was no turning point, there was going to be no change in his journey.