What’s a ‘square go’? Noun: A rammy. A stramash. Fisticuffs. A fight by the school gates. A rite of passage. A chance to prove yourself.
It’s exciting and refreshing to see a piece that is so unapologetically sweaty, sweary, and Scottish.
Square Go convincingly showcases Gary McNair and Kieran Hurley’s status as two of Scotland’s leading playwrights with their foul-mouthed love letter to Scottish boyhood. It’s exciting and refreshing to see a piece that is so unapologetically sweaty, sweary, and Scottish, a great big middle finger to ‘proper theatre’. McNair and Hurley’s text is a complex celebration and searing criticism of Scottish masculinity, On the one hand, it’s a joy to take in the filthy lyricism that implies anything can be an insult with a Scottish accent and enough imagination, whilst we’re also acutely aware of the culture of casual cruelty, emotional insecurity and blatant homophobia present that congeals into a cesspit of toxic masculinity.
Scott Fletcher and Gavin Jon Wright effortlessly inhabit the young schoolboys Max and Stevie, awkwardly fidgeting and puffing themselves up with false confidence, eager to prove themselves and one-up the other. Finn den Hertog’s direction makes great use of the Roundabout space, making the evening feel less like a piece of theatre and more like a trip to a boxing match with the audience encouraged to take part in the schoolboys’ ritual torment.
It’s great fun, I defy you not to enjoy the cheering and jeering, together with the lingering question of whether we can be better than this and break the cycle of violence. With this in mind, Square Go becomes much more than just a story of two schoolboys dealing with their insecurities and trying to prove themselves. Rather McNair, Hurley and their whole creative team seem to be speaking to a nation that’s facing the very real prospect of standing on its own two feet and reinventing itself. It would involve removing a lot of cultural baggage and rejecting countless stereotypes – but if a pair of schoolboys can do it, anyone can.