Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Square Go is a hilarious, well-written and endearingly performed tale of adolescence and toxic masculinity.
Perfectly staged in The Roundabout, it is a hugely entertaining and energetic show with an important issue at its heart.
Perfectly staged in a Roundabout that takes on the semblance of a wrestling ring, Square Go is hugely entertaining theatre.
It tells the story of 13 year old Max (Daniel Portman), hiding in the bogs at school and waiting for his arranged fight (the square go) with the school bully, the “Neanderthal knuckle-dragger” Danny Guthrie. Max is accompanied by his “weird wee pal” Stevie (Gavin Jon Wright) who tries hard to gee him up and prepare him for the roasting he is about to experience.
The script, by Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair, is ding-dong fabulous; fast and funny. It is very Scottish, peppered with dialect, but the sense is nearly always clear, even to a sassenach. Stevie also has a habit of appropriating words he likes and misusing them, which adds a surreal charm – Max is going to get “tabernacled”; an attractive girl is “really apoplectic”.
In Finn Den Hertog’s direction, Portman and Wright deliver their adolescent lines with adult voices, which seems to highlight the nonsense of their beliefs – that they cannot become men without this right of passage. They are engaging performers. We are involved and on-side from the get-go; there is a lot of cheering and chanting. There is some lovely audience interaction – a gentleman used as the butt of a “that’s your brother” joke; a man asked what his name was (hilariously, it was Max); another invited to arm wrestle.
The swaggering physical performances, choreographed by Vicki Manderson, look exhausting!
The Roundabout is the perfect space for this show, its ring-like nature augmented by Frightened Rabbit’s thumping soundtrack and precision lighting by Peter Small.
But as the countdown to the square go ticks down, a darker heart to this piece is revealed. Tales of alcoholism, absent fathers and homophobia are woven in, told through the matter-of-fact lens of puberty. There are more poignant moments here, as the damage done by toxic masculinity is exposed. There is a quiet suggestion of the possibility of another path to manhood; one that avoids the square go and all it represents.
There is something a little ironic about the message of non-violence in a show that stokes up the audience like the crowd at a wrestling match; and there is perhaps a danger that some of the deeper message is lost in the spectacle.
Nevertheless, Square Go is a hilarious, well-written and endearingly performed tale, full of adolescent energy and with an important issue at its heart.