By Isabella Fraser
The Whip Hand takes you on a rollercoaster of twists, turns, family resentments and the every day battle that takes place in how you leave your individual mark on the world. Initially it seems like a fairly straightforward family drama – a broken family merges into a somewhat happy-on-the-surface-but-not-really group. A birthday party is taking place but it then turns into a meaning of life disaster.
Every member of this dysfunctional family is having a coming-of-age – only one of them is expecting it however. There is a lovely build-up to the history of the Bell family and the potential connection to a slave trader: you can hear a pin drop when Dougie (Jonathan Watson) describes the hidden history of the part of Scotland’s wealth that was built on slavery and his anxiety with this. It is an unsettling revelation that leaves a powerful air of disturbance in the audience. That a man who feels he has not left a mark of the world would then want to contribute to something worthwhile – reparation – makes sense. He is trying to find his voice, to give meaning to who he is.
The storyline unfolds at a cracking pace, and the need for a voice within every member of the family, builds to a crescendo. Unfortunately, the build-up itself unfolds in a convoluted way, and the revelations turn out to be far more prosaic than the early storyline implies – leaving the audience feeling somewhat bemused.
The five-strong cast give committed performances, with clear direction meaning the one-room structure of the play does not feel static. Complemented by an atmospheric set, this is a good production: clarity in the points that are being made would strengthen the overall impact. There are some powerful moments in this piece that, if built on, could truly give voice to the underlying messages.
The Whip Hand runs @ various times @ the Traverse Theatre until 27/08/17. Running time I hour 25 mins.