Set against the backdrop of the obscure art of Backhold wrestling, Glasgow writer Nat McClearly teams up with director and performer Johnny McKnight to create this none-too-subtle play about racism in Scotland today.
Backhold wrestling, a bit like Sumo in a kilt, still thrives at Highland games around Scotland, and as Scotland wrestles with it’s own national identity, this play questions if we really are ready to welcome in outsiders or are we still a colloquial, backward-looking and fundamentally racist nation.
Each of the five characters in this play has their own motivations and stories to tell and demons to deal with: Coach Pamela is military in her instruction, ‘validation comes from within’ yet her own identity fears are just barely hidden and ready to burst out. Imogen, a rich Londoner (“Black first, rich second”), latches on to Scottish-Jamaican Jo to educate here in the ways of Black sisterhood, firstly by alienating her from her childhood friend Chantelle. Timorous Helen is older and looking for a new direction and reason in her life, untethered, after her forty-year marriage. They may all wear the same’s tie-dyed T-shirts, but are they really a team?
After racist comments at a Highland games Imogen (Efè Agwele) asks, “Surely all of Scotland can’t be that white,” – as she looks pointedly around the theatre audience.
A debut play which is funny, poignant and relevant in Scotland today, and tackles the difficult question of racism with no holds barred. This may not be subtle, but it is certainly extremely well acted and asks important questions about our national identity.
Running time – 1hr 15mins
Reviewer: Greg Holstead
Reviewed: 9th August 2023
North West End UK Rating: