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FringeReview Scotland 2024

Haudin the Jaikets

Bend it Like Productions

Genre: Drama, Theatre

Venue: Webster’s Theatre, Glasgow


Low Down

On the 18th of March 1992, Scottish flyweight Pat Clinton fought for the world title in Glasgow’s iconic Kelvin Hall. Promoted by the grandson and son of a Scottish boxing dynasty, Tommy Gilmour Jr, we eventually join the youngest of the dynasty who is on tenterhooks as the fight has gone to the judges. Meanwhile in purgatory, grandad Jim is being sent down by one of the Archangels to collect a new inmate with the initials TG. Whilst negotiating his return, and potential promotion to Heaven, Jim lets slip that his son, Tommy Sr is in heaven under false pretences; Tommy claimed he was a poet and not a bookie, like his faither. Once Jim is sent to the fight, Tommy is recalled and challenged before being sent down too as his faither Jim, forgot to take the envelope with the initials of the man to bring back. And so, on the biggest night of his promotional life, Junior is visited by the ghostly presences of his faither and grand faither as they watch the fight together. Lurking in the shadows is a cockney figure looking to punish Junior if Clinton does not take a dive in the final round. Set against the fight being played out on big screens in the background, the interaction between three generations drives the narrative. The result? We have a split decision…


Similarly, we have a split decision over the event. The event itself was simply a triumph. Many in the audience were future, present and past icons of Scottish boxing. Former fighters and present prospects attracted by a world title event in the same city in which they hope to have a career packed the place out. Most would not have spent time in theatres watching plays, so it was an event filled with novelty and earnest appreciation of the story being told. People were far from reverential and at times the etiquette of theatre watching was unobserved. It led to the former boxer to my left observing that the two behind him had clearly “learned tae whisper in a helicopter.” And so, this was the greatest gift that it had to give to theatre – a full house of people who do not see themselves as part of the literati.

As a rehearsed reading, there was actually a lot of theatrical trickery at work – the visuals onscreen of the projection, of both the fight and the Archangel – worked really well. The interaction between the three characters onstage – son, faither and grandfaither – is a conceit which has a great deal of merit, and the interaction works well. The three actors are very much up for the play – especially the guy playing Junior, who was in the audience watching him – and they performed with professional expertise giving the whole an authentic ring. I have been to too many rehearsed readings that were more readings than ever rehearsed. Perhaps, however having the heavy an unconvincing cockney would have been better served by making the decisions to throw authenticity to the wind and have a more convincing accent on show.

If there are triumphs in the event, the theatre arts, and the performances, the split decision comes with some elements of the script. Delivered, mainly through monologue and the group interactions, you can hear the patter of the gym, the rough and ready of the sport and the tension of an event from which, in this very city, some people have not returned alive. It’s tough and needs tough characters to be part of it. Everything in that is dramatic. It does not make a play, but it gives tremendous opportunity.

Structurally, there are issue around dialogue – it needs to be more organic and not rely on punchlines so much, It also needs to be aware that covering as many boxing issues/ criticism etc. is not the whole reason for doing it. It can feel a little tell the tale heavy rather than dramatically poignant. There are also a few areas which jar – if the ghouls visit 1992, and that is the present day, how do they have 21st century technology in heaven and not 23rd century tech? Things like that would be picked up with a more critical audience, the wider public for whom this needs to appeal if it is to be produced.

That is where there may need to be a hook beyond the boxing. Technically anything that has 12 rounds and then show you them works like a countdown. The resolution phone call at the end is also dragging some of this conclusion and the end ought to be the split decision announcement – you cannot beat a world tile result with dialogue. Perhaps the ghosts finish their business before the announcement?

Overall, however, this has tremendous legs, a great story to tell, a dramatic structure in the ghosts which works and is a great nod to the dynasty. This, with some edits and redrafts should be supported to full production.  It is clearly one of those events where we know the ending but could do with better telling of the emotions behind it. Sort that and you could have more working class punters queuing up outside to erupt at the decision at the end of the fight as they spontaneously did the night I was there.