The Whip Hand, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Traverse Theatre Company and Birmingham Repertory Theatre in association with The National Theatre of Scotland
Douglas Maxwell (writer), Tessa Walker (director), Natasha Jenkins (designer) Simon Bond (lighting designer)
Michael Abubaker (Aaron), Lorenzo Richard Conlon), Louise Ludgate (Arlene), Joanne Thomson (MollY), Jonathan Watson (Dougie)
Running time

For some of us, it’s always about money. Perhaps the ability to quantify makes for a sense of security, but we all have a tendency to evaluate on the basis of our fellow humans trappings and statements of visible value.

Dougie Bell (Jonathan Watson) is turning fifty. One part of his slightly unconventional ‘family’ has invited him over to celebrate. Only Dougie is a man on a mission, possessed by a dream of somehow making things right. He’s had another invitation, to offer a cash restitution to the descendants of those enslaved for the profit of others. Dougie has been informed he is directly related to William ‘Saracen’ Bell, notorious slave-ship captain of days past, and has been invited to contribute £25,000 as a form of reparation for his ancestor’s misdeeds.

The reactions of Dougie’s ex-wife Arlene (Louise Ludgate), daughter Molly (Joanne Thomson) and Arlene’s new partner Lorenzo (Richard Conlon) may be mixed and muddled, but all are united in their determination that Dougie’s cash, previously ear-marked for Molly’s university career, will not end up part of what they see as an online scam.

As the evening turns toxic and suspicions are thrown around like snowballs in a fight, several of which are aimed at Aaron (Michael Abubaker), Dougie’s mixed-race nephew, veneers begin to thin and what initially appeared the strife of one family takes on wider and deeper themes. Greed is certainly not good for us, even in an age of rampant individualism and the survival of the supposedly fittest.

‘The Whip Hand’ represents for this reviewer a stimulating departure from some of Douglas Maxwell’s previous work, opening up possibilities and potentialities that make one hungry and impatient for whatever he may next set before us.

August 3-27 - times vary age recommend 14+