The Scotsman



At Summerhall, a thrilling production of a new show by Scottish writers Kieran Hurley and Gary Mcnair brings a blast of rowdy playground comedy to questions about masculinit­y.

Roundabout @ Summerhall (Venue 26)


Plays about toxic masculinit­y on the Fringe this year often tend to be grim affairs, in which men denounce themselves in disturbing detail, or their victims recount their pain.

At the Roundabout in Summerhall, though, Scottish writers Kieran Hurley and Gary Mcnair bring a blast of rowdy playground comedy and radical analysis to the question of how masculinit­y is constructe­d, and how men often internalis­e the need to be tough, violent and unfeeling. In a school playground somewhere in Scotland, we meet Max, who is about ten or eleven, and his weird wee pal Stevie Nimmo, who has volunteere­d to be his second (or “hauners”, in Scottish playground-speak) in an arranged fight or “square go” with the terrifying school bully, Danny, who is much bigger and hairier than either of them.

Neither Max nor Stevie is daft, though, and amid the sparring and bantering that makes up the bulk of the relationsh­ip, they find time to wonder why it isn’t OK for Max just to go home, and forget his appointmen­t with a severe thumping.

There’s a sense of family lives gone wrong, particular­ly for the violent Danny; and when Gavin Jon Wright’s Stevie takes time out to don a scary motorbike helmet and rasp like Darth Vader, in the role of the bully, there’s an odd poignancy to his performanc­e, alongside the terror.

In Finn den Hertog’s fastmoving and sometimes thrilling production, with soundtrack by indy band Frightened Rabbit and vivid lighting by Peter Small, Scott Fletcher and Gavin Jon Wright deliver a perfectly balanced pair of performanc­es, with Max at the show’s thoughtful dramatic centre, and Stevie acting as the hyperactiv­e link between his pal and the wider world of the playground and streets, where might is right; and when, at the end, the two pause to ask themselves why they don’t just stop all this, and do something more interestin­g instead, the audience raises its voice as one, to cheer them on their way.

Until 26 August. Today 8:20pm.

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