Square Go (image: Tread Design | photography: The Other Richard)
The heady aroma of fear and Lynx Africa hangs in the air in Square Go, Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair’s hilarious new play concerned with the daily terror of being a teenage boy, all told using the creative insults of high school. The focus is 13 year-old WWF-nut Max (Scott Fletcher), who’s waiting in the school toilets for the end-of-day bell to ring. In an hour’s time he’s to have the eponymous square go with Danny Guthrie, his year’s feared hardcase, a boy so terrifying he’s started shaving because he actually needs to. Keeping Max’s spirits up is his best pal and unlikely hauners Stevie (Gavin Jon Wright), who may still have his VLs (or “virgin lips”) and loves ten dollar words but isn’t quite sure how to deploy them (he reckons Max is going to get “pure tabernacled” in the fight).
Directed by Finn den Hertog, the play sharply blends audience interaction with pure theatricality. Wearing vests and very short-shorts, Max and Steve banter with the in-the-round crowd. They let us in on their lowly standing within the school, bring us up to speed on the various myths surrounding Danny Guthrie and explain how Max managed to get on the psycho’s shit list. In the middle of this bonhomie the lighting will turn expressionistic, the pulsating score (composed by Frightened Rabbit before Scott Hutchison’s death this year) will crank up and the smoke machine is turned to 80s music video mode, taking us to the darker realms of Max’s swirling thoughts, with Wright playing the various angels and demons in Max’s life, including a gravelly-voiced Guthrie in a Mexican wrestling mask.
As well as being a riotous night of theatre and adolescent humour, Square Go has plenty of perceptive things to say about toxic masculinity, the scars (emotional as well as physical) that the hellish arena of the playground inflicts on young men and the cyclical nature of this hate and violence. To borrow one of Stevie’s phrases – and use it (kind of) aptly – Square Go is “pure incandescent, it’s heavy rambunctious”.