Boys, bullies and '90s wrestling – from this, Fringe First winners Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair have created a show that succeeds in looking at masculinity in a pulse-racing, light-touch way.
Thirteen-year-old Max (Scott Fletcher) anxiously counts down an hour in the school toilets, awaiting his fight—his “square go”—with the fearsome Danny Guthrie. Meanwhile, his friend Stevie (Gavin Jon Wright) only succeeds in scaring him more.
Hurley and McNair freshen this familiar scenario by channelling it into fantasy sequences straight out of Max’s religiously-watched VHS wrestling tapes. Through Max and Stevie, then, we get the full gravel growl and macho posturing of wrestlers as a metaphor for the cyclical pressures on boys to be and act a certain way.
It’s handled slickly by director Finn den Hertog, who fills the Roundabout Theatre with a booming soundtrack, flashing lights and a ringside atmosphere. Fletcher and Wright winningly engage in some fun audience banter as they rally us up.
Wright also plays a number of people in Max’s imagination – from a silhouetted, beast-like Danny, to his deadbeat, runaway dad. His comic timing is excellent. But Fletcher anchors Square Go with his, by turns, hilarious and touching portrayal of his character’s awkward-angled, teenage flail for male identity.
This is a rollicking show, with some fitting pot shots at visiting southerners. The buzz of the wrestling conceit wears itself out before the end and the show really pummels its message home in its final scenes. But it’s also energetic, funny and refreshingly hopeful about changing the rules.