Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Four friends set out to see Hibernian take on Rangers to end a 114 year drought and win the Scottish Cup – but the journey they undergo has unexpected consequences.
1902 was the year Hibs won the Scottish Cup. It took 114 years for them to win it again, so the title has some resonance. Saltire Sky use the occasion to springboard their story, but this rich and vibrant piece does not confine itself to the praise of football legends past – and present. Hibs’ progress is the frame on which hangs the fate of 4 friends – determined to see the final against Rangers. Writer, co-director and performer Nathan Scott Dunn is at the heart of the piece – his Derek “Deeks” Longshaft is both narrator and the main drive of the play. From the beginning he’s like an over-tightened spring with a dark energy that pervades the surroundings of the Wee Bar, which doubles as their local in Bonnyrigg. This energy is shared by the cast; it’s infectious between them and immediately engages their audience. There’s an unbridled physicality about the work and the other 3 friends, best friend and soft touch Sambo (played with touching vulnerability by Gary Duncan) , dour Zippy coping with an old playing career-denying knee injury (nice energy from Cameron Docker) and aspiring overseas traveller Frankie (a big-hearted romantic from Josh Brock) all take turns to drive the storyline. They are all a bit trapped by circumstance though – signing on and with little hope of escaping their fairly hum-drum existence, although it’s relieved somewhat by their barmaid Mags ( a lovely understated turn from Shona Brodie Hill)
It’s Deeks’ desperation that pulls the pin on the hand-grenade. Borrowing £1000 from local hard-man Craig (a high-tension portrayal by Jonny Tulloch) he buys 4 tickets for the game – but tells his creditor it’s for his Nan’s dream garden. Craig rumbles the scheme and not only demands his money back, but the tickets as well – unless someone wants to fight him for them. Enter Deeks’ elder brother Tony (a strong performance from Sands Stirling) – a bullying drug dealer, addict and waster. There’s a big rift between these siblings because Tony ignored their dying father – Deeks isn’t happy but what other option is there? Fight Craig himself?
Anything else would be a spoiler, but the action and tension in the bar is unremitting. There’s a good dose of humour and plenty of industrial language – but it rings true. Gradually tying the threads together, the company create a vivid portrayal of Bonnyrigg life. Hibs’ victory (vividly brought to life a mixture of narrative and physical theatre, reminiscent of its rugby cousin “Up N Under”) is tempered by other events, but the company never succumb to sentimentality. Instead, culminating in a chorus of the Proclaimers’ “Sunshine On Leith”, accompanied by a guitarist (who plays as we enter the bar and underscores the performance), they celebrate their identity and their heritage. This is an impressive and moving ensemble piece, that with a little attention to the overall pace and orchestration could lift it even further. Great credit to this largely young company, many of whom double an acting job with other production tasks. It’ll be interesting to see where they go next and with bucket loads of talent, the sky’s the limit.