We’re standing with our thoughts on Edinburgh’s Meadows while listening to Foreigner’s I Want to Know What Love Is. It is just the sort of soft-rock number the subject of Marion Thomas’s drama would listen to, with his bland tastes, fancy car and obsession with appearances. He is an involuntary celibate – or incel – a man as lacking in self-awareness as he is filled with hatred for a world he believes has let him down.
The song choice is also ironic. This man does not know what love is, nor is he ever likely to find out. The bleak propaganda of the online communities he frequents will see to that.
In a headphone-based walking tour – half Reclaim the Streets, half audio play – Thomas and the Swiss feminist collective Pintozor Productions make the connection between the everyday aggressions women suffer at the hands of men and the violence propagated by the incel movement. They imply a dehumanising continuum that starts with lairy behaviour on public transport and ends in rape and murder.
Engagingly performed by Rosalind McAndrew, the script follows the man’s route from playground bullying to social awkwardness, from the safety of online gaming to a corrupt philosophy fuelled by misogyny.
While this 45-minute walk on the streets around Summerhall stands as a guide to surviving – or, at least, navigating – masculinist territory, it says nothing about the action needed to make the violence stop. By focusing on a movement associated with mass killings, Thomas brings the script to a forceful end, but incel ideology, however abhorrent, is not the greatest threat. Harder to crack is a culture that thinks it OK for women to fear going out in public.
At Summerhall, Edinburgh, until 28 August