Bleeding Black

Christopher Watts returns to the Festival Fringe with his one-man-show, Bleeding Black, at Greenside, Nicolson Square. The story revolves around a boy who, as he grows into manhood, increasingly has to come to terms with his relationship with what Watts sees as New Zealand’s ‘national addiction’; the game of rugby.

Energetic, fast-paced physicality

A little boy was inclined towards playing football, but his dad, as the local rugby coach, was having none of that. Unimpressed by his five-year-old son’s first rather feeble attempts at the game he bluntly shouts, ‘Stop playing, or harden up’. No lad wants to disappoint his father and so he becomes bullied into a world of aggressive masculinity that would eventually control his life. He keeps hardening up whether it’s in his aspirations to play for the All Blacks, his obsessive support of teams, the spending of money on rugby paraphernalia, the drinking or the relationships that he tries to maintain, but which ultimately his hardness dashes to pieces. He took his father's words to heart until the obsessive and callous behaviour they generated made him just like his father and left him only with regrets.

Watts appreciates the challenge of this type of drama, acknowledging in the opening that that there’s an art to telling your life story without people becoming completely bored. There is no chance of that happening here, given the energetic, fast-paced physicality he deploys but also manages to temper with scenes of calmer reflection. It’s a highly events-centred, action-packed piece that could perhaps gain greater depth from an even closer exploration of the emotional aspect of his relationships.

This play might revolve around rugby, but it could be told many times over in countries around the world where a sport pervades the national psyche, be it football in Europe and most of the Americas or even more extremely American Football in the USA. The specific game is irrelevant. What matters is how its culture impacts, often destructively on the lives of children and families.

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The Blurb

Bleeding Black is a black comedy about a New Zealand boy called Sam, who is told in his first rugby match, age five, 'stop playing, or harden up'. He chooses to harden up, a decision that he keeps making throughout his life as he progresses through school, work, and watching professional rugby. Rugby is intrinsically linked with New Zealand's identity, at home and abroad. Bleeding Black explores the darker side of that identity, where hyper-masculinity bleeds into everyday life, affecting everybody in ways that are often ignored or overlooked.

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