The result is an unsettlingly effective impression that you’ve side-stepped into a parallel universe; if the language weren’t so dark, it might even be considered playful.
With Squash, by actor and writer Martin McCormick, the involvement of “Scotland’s New Writing Theatre” again is definitely discernible; director Finn Den Hertog has been able to bring together an outstanding team to deliver a very fresh piece of original theatre which, if somewhat constrained by its current time limit, is still definitely worth catching if you can.
Squash is set in the Glasgow tower block flat which Ma shares with her grown up son, Bald. Ma saw, out of the window, young Paul stealing Bald’s yellow bike, and he’s been brought upstairs to be dealt with. From this initial premise, the play gets darker and more surreal with each passing line as everyone’s secrets slowly come to light.
McCormick’s dialogue excellently conveys mother and son’s insular world; they have strange internal rules for how the world works, unfamiliar names for things, and decidedly odd sentence constructions. The result is an unsettlingly effective impression that you’ve side-stepped into a parallel universe; if the language weren’t so dark, it might even be considered playful.
The cast revel in this dialogue; Christian Ortega as Paul coherently finds the balance between playing the straight man to this mad family and revealing his own secrets, bringing a nuanced humility to his darkest material. Anne Lacey as Ma combines a League of Gentlemen-esque confident insanity with a self-awareness that demands a second look. Finally, Keith Fleming as Bald plays Ma’s totally institutionalised son with vulnerability and emotional intelligence, while never ceasing to exploit the fun available to the role.
This is a play with big ideas, but any intended social criticism is all too easily buried by the overtly dark humour and surreal characters. The result is a strange, almost comic piece of theatre that, while certainly enjoyable, doesn’t quite have the time to give its more profound aspects space to grow.