In 1902 Hibs won the Scottish Cup. It’s a year etched in a long, disappointing and frustrating history for the loyal fans of Hibernian Football Club who had to wait 114 years for their beloved team to win it again.
A stunning piece of immersive theatre, that's as uplifting as it is tragic
Saltire Sky Theatre returns to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year with 1902, a play they first performed in 2018 at the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh and with which they have just given their debut performances south of the border, opening the new Prince of Wales Pub Theatre in Moseley, Birmingham. This production is given added resonance by being performed less than a mile away from the team’s stadium. Leith Arches has the perfect gritty edge of worn exposed brick, industrial scaffolding and a basic bar to match the raw performances that define this play.
Although called 1902 the story is framed around the second victory of 2016. Four lads will do almost anything to lay their hands on tickets for the final and bring some life to their dreary pub existence, but tickets are like gold dust. In desperation Derek "Deeks" Longstaff (Nathan Scott-Dunn) decides to borrow £1000 off the local wheeler-dealer and tough guy Craig Turnbull (Jonny Tulloch) with a sob story about needing money to fulfil his nan’s dream of a new garden. Craig obliges, but soon discovers the truth and demands not only his money back but also the tickets, unless someone would rather fight him for them. As nominations for a pugilist are put forward Deeks’ drug-dealing, drug-addicted, heavy-drinking ne'er do well older brother Tony (Sands Stirling) enters the frame. Their dysfunctional relationship comes to the fore and piles the pressure on Deek who is still reeling from the death of their father while trying to deal with his mother and cope with his mates. This trio drives the main story. Tulloch gives an implacably tough peformance as the guy you dont want to mess with, while Scott-Dunn and Stirling both have times when they can reveal the humanity and vulnerabilty that lies beneath the brash exterior and bravado.
Scott-Dunn not only gives a hugely commanding performance, he also wrote the play and co-directed it with Stirling. Between them they have created a masterpiece of visceral theatre and assembled a cast of extraordinarily talented actors. Their passion and commitment is unwavering as they work their way through a gamut of emotional outpourings. Fueling the group’s ethos, they are Alexander Arran-Cowan as Samuel ‘Sambo’ Donaldson, Josh Brock as Frank ‘Frankie’ Armstrong and Cameron Docker as Thomas 'Zippy Collins. Each has his own story and that is carefully woven into the narrative at the Dug and Duck in Bonnyrigg where they daily while away the hours, served by the only character from south of the border. Ella Stokes plays the barmaid Margaret "Mags" Evesham, a Londoner. In the hands of Stokes, Mags is not one to be messed with either; she’s as hard as nails and ruthless as the rest of them. Underscoring the production is Sandy Bain, The Musician, up aloft, looking down on the action, interjecting and providing the accompaniment necessary for the traditional football songs and the inevitable moving number from Sunshine on Leith.
Saltire Sky Theatre have created a stunning piece of immersive theatre, that's as uplifitng as it is tragic. It also is also rooted in the spirit of the nation, of Edinburgh, of Leith and above all of Hibs. It could not be peformed in a better place.