EIF: Thrown @ Traverse Theatre
Nat McCleary's Thrown is a highly relatable and undeniably human look at friendship, class, race and gender in modern Scotland
Thrown is a marvellously spirited play that chronicles the experience of five utterly unique women in their quest to compete at the Highland Games. Examining cultural identity, friendship, age, race, class, and gender with comedy and sincerity, Thrown opens up dialogue about contemporary society that remains distinctly Scottish.
Clad in neon costumes, the all-female cast take the audience inside the classroom as we follow Imogen, Chantelle, Jo, and Helen’s introduction to wrestling. From the outset, one may presume the stereotypical female ‘role’ that each character represents: the girly influencer, the tough-as-nails-coach (Pam), the older lady, the tomboy, and so on. However, as the play unfolds, one realises that this could not be further from the truth. This is aided by revealing soliloquies that punctuate the play, deepening the audience’s understanding of their respective stories and how they impact the plot as a whole.
As the action develops, the group wrestle with tensions that amass between them, but playwright Nat McCleary consistently maintains a wonderful balance between conflict and resolution and the friction is beautiful. Throughout the play, the characters poetically bring an element of personal suffering to the narrative, each of which is equally relatable and undeniably human. A particularly poignant theme in the play is the relationship between race, class and culture, and the anxieties it causes in the minds of those who don’t fit the stereotypical profiles. This issue is superbly navigated, presenting an array of ideas and opinions that form a nuanced picture of contemporary Scottish society, without decreeing an idealistic resolution. Our relationship with history is another vital thread in the play, especially as it informs the characters’ navigation of their own lives. This is in part embodied by the Highland Games themselves, but also in the touching relationship between Helen, the oldest member, and the rest of the group.
The acting is phenomenal, and the cast portray incredible levels of vulnerability and authenticity that are mesmerising to watch. Each actor is a captivating storyteller in their own right, but together they form a powerhouse that creates dynamism and vibrance on stage.
Thrown delivers the familiar but powerful message that we should all embrace our differences; however, true to life, McCleary doesn’t attempt to contrive a ‘happy ending’. Tensions are left unresolved; the characters’ discontent is palpable, and yet the story doesn’t feel unfinished. The play depicts life’s battles and the inner convictions that we cannot shake – it does not shy away from its messier features. This image is not negative, but realistic, and remains faithful that we continue to build, united in difference. Thrown is a must-see.
Thrown, Traverse Theatre, until 27 Aug, various times, £12.50-25