An Interview With Fleabag and Angry Alan Producer Francesca Moody

Billie Manning

Penelope Skinner's darkly comic play about masculinity in crisis comes to Soho Theatre next month - we chat to the show's producer Francesca Moody about working with the award-winning playwright, audience's reactions to the show and the men's rights movement.

You’ve worked on a lot of plays that tackle social issues, but what attracted you to Angry Alan in particular?
The shows I tend to produce are shows that I read and have an immediate, visceral reaction to, and when I read Angry Alan it felt like a play that was about something extremely important, and the themes that it tackles are very much in the public eye at the moment. But at the same time, it was such an original and unique way to approach the issue around men’s rights and right-wing extremism. I’m also a huge fan of Penelope Skinner and the opportunity to work with a writer whose work I’ve been such a big admirer of for such a long time was a no-brainer for me.
Have you been able to work closely with Penelope?
The show was already perfectly formed when it dropped into my inbox, but with all my shows I think it’s really important to feel that all the key creatives are collaborating and that we are bringing it to the attention of our audiences in one vision. So in that sense, yes, I got to work with her quite closely.

How important do you think that it’s told from a different perspective than the one we’re used to?
I think it’s really important. Especially for most of us working in the arts, who tend to be left-wing liberals, we’re encouraging each others’ own politics in a bubble, and I feel there’s something really interesting and important about seeing it from the perspective of someone who comes from a different place, and being able to understand how something like the men’s rights movement can prey on the most vulnerable. Telling the story from that perspective also means a play like Angry Alan doesn’t just become a vehicle for loads of vitriol for the men’s rights movement. It allows for the comedy in that play that means that even though we’re horrified by some of the things Roger says, we’re laughing at them and their ridiculousness.
Angry Alan producer Francesca Moody
Francesca Moody. Image courtesy of Richard Lakos.

Are you hoping for audiences to come away with a sense of empathy?
I wouldn’t say empathy. Ultimately it’s about a new perspective on how people can be ensconced in that kind of movement. Rather than being able to empathise with them and saying, ‘God, yeah, we need to sort out how we treat men!’, to have a more honest perspective on what it’s like being sucked into a movement like that.
Has the show evolved since Edinburgh?
To be honest with you, no, it’s a perfect little gem all on its own. I think coming to London is a really exciting stepping stone in its journey, but essentially the play stays the same. But when we come to London we do get to fine-tune and finesse the more technical elements of the show which we couldn’t do in Edinburgh, as we had to get out in about 3 minutes!

Are you enjoying being at the Soho Theatre?
Soho Theatre is the venue in London to transfer brilliant small plays out of Edinburgh to, and I feel the audience are an audience who will engage with the subject matter and the spirit of what the play is about. It feels like it’s the right space for it and they’re a great team there, they really believe in the work.
Why should we come and see Angry Alan?
You should come and see Angry Alan because it is frightening, funny, important and it is a brilliantly conceived piece of theatre that most people would find hard not to come out feeling like they were changed in some way.
Where’s your favourite place to see theatre in London?
Apart from the Soho Theatre, it has to be the Young Vic, because I’ve never been disappointed by the theatre I see there - it’s so diverse - and the bar is so lovely to have a drink in before - and after!
Angry Alan is at Soho Theatre 5 - 30 March.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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