A dystopian look at the counter-cultural alt-right phenomenon in a world with no digital technology, The Abode is a well-crafted ensemble piece by Fringe First winners Pepperdine Scotland.
“Welcome to the subconscious fantasy realm of oppressed white American men!”, or, for us Fringe-goers, Davey Anderson’s The Abode. Fringe First winners Pepperdine Scotland take us to a version of contemporary America without digital technology, where the alt-right is an underground movement that recruits and brainwashes dissatisfied young white men like Samuel. He lost his father, lives with an absent mother and a more successful non-white sister, Wendy. After finding an old device belonging to his father, he is recruited by the Trolls and only Wendy is able to save him.
The play has an 80’s vibe that we’ve seen spreading like a mad fashion trend in the past few years (raise your hand if you’re fan of Stranger Things). You can gather in the programme that Anderson has always been interested in the misogynistic “manosphere” that developed on the internet in the past few years, and how easy it was to fall into this online fascist rabbit hole. He then developed The Abode thinking about what an actual underground movement and its counterpart would look like.
The production has definite value: it’s a professionally crafted piece and strong example of true ensemble theatre. All of the young actors here carry the story with a clear voice, switching between characters and costumes, moving props and changing the set with a swiftness that many professional productions cannot boast. If you want to see good ensemble work, Pepperdine Scotland should be high up on your list.
Unfortunately for me though, this was not enough to save the show. I don’t particularly like dystopian narratives, especially because it’s become such a well-worn genre that it’s unusual one brings something new to the genre. As much as The Abode attempted to be multi-dimensional, for example by making the Troll Hunters just as ruthless as their enemies, I still think it could’ve done so much more.
For instance [spoilers ahead], the way Wendy saves her brother is by literally going down into The Abode and pulling him away from the trolls; and the way she is able to do it is because her superpower is to believe in the goodness of people. Not only this is naïve, but it also detaches responsibility from Samuel entirely (as he’s continuously referred to as being “stuck” there and helpless because “brainwashed. The fact is – people like Samuel don’t need idle ‘saving’, they need educating. And despite the fact this play highlights the problem, it feels more like a redundant warning rather than a solution – or an interesting new perspective at least.
I appreciated that The Abode didn’t end with a full stop but rather a question mark, that it posed questions but didn’t give answers. After all, the issue it poses will be waiting for us outside the theatre and we’ll have to figure out a solution collectively. But it could have at least shed new light on it.