The Whip Hand

How can you bear to be Scottish?! Douglas Maxwell’s new, clever and punchy, drama at the Traverse asks the uncomfortable questions about how we live and see ourselves in society today.

The show is based on a modern version of the classic sit-com set, with an L-shaped sofa and giant potted palm to match. The 90 minutes of patter and family confrontation gradually peel back layers of pretence, eventually revealing both the individuals and culture for the shoddy shams that they are.

It starts with Dougie, tongue-tied and pathetic, touting a scam to his ex-wife and her second husband, in their chic setting-room, where gin and glitzy chat flow between streams of laughter and forgetfulness. Dougie is the failure the unreconstructed weegie, accepted into his ex wife’s home under the pretext that he is there to make everyone else feel successful by comparison.

As things unwind, the revelations not only show us the numerous ways in which we lie to ourselves and our nearest and dearest, but also the contemporary gloss we paint over commonplace societal problems – in this case brutal racism.

There are great performances here: Louise Ludgate is splendid in her rendition of an “in-your-face” Arlene, the self-improved, reinvented wife, mother and career woman who has an answer for everything except that of her past behaviour. Jonathan Watson plays Dougie with a memorable mixture of pathos and prejudice, with Richard Conlon as the schmoozer Lorenzo ably treading the line between delightful and dreadful.

This is a slow burn of a play, taking a while to show the audience its real targets, leaving none of the onstage characters untouched.

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Julie Morrice

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