Square Go review – stage becomes wrestling ring for playful look at male adolescence

Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh
Schoolboy banter and playground scraps expose underlying insecurities in Gary McNair and Kieran Hurley’s play

The playground is a battlefield. Max and his best mate, Stevie, know that more than most. They’re the boys ducking punches and running from bullies, the boys who try to talk tough but feel scared. And for the hour we spend with them in Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair’s new play, they’re the boys hiding out in the school loos, waiting for Max’s imminent fight – his square go – with resident tough guy Danny.

Hurley, McNair and director Finn den Hertog gleefully play with the theatricality of the wrestling ring and the high drama of the schoolyard. There’s no pretending, not even for a minute, that this isn’t all happening in front of an audience. As Max and Stevie, Scott Fletcher and Gavin Jon Wright get us cheering in their corners, chanting their names as they square off against the bullies and each other. Punches – real and metaphorical – are underlined by the thud of Frightened Rabbit’s soundtrack and the sharp jabs of Peter Small’s lighting, creating a mini spectacle in the intimate surroundings of the Roundabout theatre.

As entertainment, it’s irresistible. Hurley and McNair mine a deep vein of humour in the classroom and playground, picking at the quirks and insecurities of male adolescence. The laughs are almost as loud as the cheers as Max and Stevie induct us into their world of terrifying bullies, eccentric physics teachers and old VHS tapes of wrestlers. Capturing the swagger and self-doubt of puberty, Fletcher and Wright are immensely likable performers, winning us over to their side from the start.

This, though, is more than a light-hearted romp through schoolboy rivalries. Playground scraps might seem like small fry, but it’s in the school and the park that violence is scratched into the skin of boys and young men. Beneath the banter, Square Go exposes the toxicity of macho posturing, revealing conventional masculinity as the sham it really is. Max and Stevie are caught in a centuries old trap, recycling tired and damaging images of manliness. But there is a suggestion that maybe – just maybe – it’s possible to break free.


Catherine Love

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Garry Starr Performs Everything review – theatre saviour's complete works of silliness
Damien Warren-Smith’s alter ego delivers a drama masterclass, leading us from clownish chaos to feats of comic genius

Brian Logan

07, Aug, 2018 @12:57 PM

Article image
Drip review – heartwarming comedy about swimming against the tide
The audience wear ponchos for this one-man show about a schoolboy trying to keep his head above water, and learning it’s OK to be awkward

Kate Wyver

22, Aug, 2018 @11:20 AM

Article image
The End of Eddy review – a televisual glimpse into small-town homophobia
Stewart Laing sensitively takes Édouard Louis’s groundbreaking coming-of-age story from page to stage

Mark Fisher

22, Aug, 2018 @10:32 AM

Article image
On the Exhale review – gripping gun drama draws us into heart of darkness
As a bereaved mother, Polly Frame is consumed by thoughts of revenge as Martín Zimmerman’s mesmerising tale of a school massacre hits home

Mark Fisher

04, Aug, 2018 @10:44 AM

Article image
User Not Found review – what happens to our digital identities after we die?
Grappling with both the comfort and toxicity of social media, Chris Goode’s show for Dante or Die is a tender, intimate story of love and letting go

Kate Wyver

07, Aug, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
Off-Kilter review – startling look at a life out of order
Ramesh Meyyappan’s solo theatre show explores our daily struggle to hold it all together

Chris Wiegand

20, Aug, 2018 @7:00 PM

Article image
La Maladie de la Mort review – clinical dissection of male gaze
Katie Mitchell and Alice Birch’s stage adaptation of a Marguerite Duras novella is skilfully designed but strangely dulling

Kate Wyver

17, Aug, 2018 @6:00 PM

Article image
The Tape Face Show review – kohl-eyed comedian comes unstuck
Sam Wills’ mime and prop-act is a big draw, but his new show ramps up expectations with too little comedy payoff

Brian Logan

09, Aug, 2018 @1:23 PM

Article image
Ahir Shah: Duffer review – political standup gets personal
The comic discusses race, mental health and mortality in a set that’s packed with difficult material

Brian Logan

13, Aug, 2018 @11:57 AM

Article image
The Beggar's Opera review – the original jukebox musical reimagined
An updated version of John Gay’s classic features gags about the royal wedding and Brexit, but the music has missed a trick

Rowena Smith

17, Aug, 2018 @4:00 PM