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The Scotsman - - The Feature - JOYCE MCMIL­LAN

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)

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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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