JOYCE MCMILLAN on SQUASH at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 18.10.14.

4 stars ****

IN A TOWER-BLOCK flat in some bleak Scottish city, Bald and his mother – known only as Ma – are eyeing the boy Bald has just grabbed outside the flats, and taken prisoner.  Their accusation is that the boy, Paul,  has stolen Bald’s precious shiny bicycle; but it’s not long before it becomes clear that the bicycle is at best a fantasy, and at worst a metaphor for something much darker, and more frightening.

Set in the kind of dystopian urban badlands where working-class white people like Bald and Ma increasingly lurk at home, nursing hostile fantasies about the “ethnics” who live around them – while middle class kids like Paul may well indulge in even more lethal forms of veiled racism – this latest short play by writer and actor Martin McCormick is a truly disturbing black tragic-comedy of grotesque and dysfunctional relationships, not only between a superbly weird and damaged Keith Fleming as Bald, and Anne Lacey as his all-consuming mother, but also in society at large.

Finn den Hertog’s Play Pie and Pint production – which moves on to the Traverse next week – races along with an impressive, unsettling intensity.  And McCormick’s writing often achieves an almost Philip-Ridley-like nightmare quality, as he conjures up image after image of a society in meltdown, clinging to tiny fragments of meaning in ever more embattled domestic spaces, while steadily succumbing to the madness of a world bereft of the idea of safe public space,  and obsessed with recurring images of violence and threat that make half-crazed prisoners of us all.



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