Review: Thrown

An exploration of Scottish identity and backhold wrestling

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Photo by Mihaela Bodlovic
Published 09 Aug 2023

It's hard not to be charmed by Thrown, an energetic rumination on Scottish identity via the appropriately Scottish, refreshingly niche sport of backhold wrestling (it's more or less what it sounds like). In particular, the generational-spanning, mixed-heritage cast demonstrate real chemistry. To a woman, Efè Agwele, Maureen Carr, Lesley Hart, Chloe-Ann Tylor and Adiza Shardow give the impression of having a genuine dog in the fight of what it means to be Scottish – testament, of course, to their skilful ensemble work.

But it's hard to really love the script and the direction they're lumbered with. Backhold wrestling at highland games is a nice leaping-off point, but starts to feel like a tight hold in which everything is squeezed until it screams 'metaphor': the micro-tears in a muscle – the accumulation of small injuries which, in fact, breeds strength; the thudding final reveal of a bespoke tartan which weaves their identities together into something greater than the sum of the individual warps and wefts.

Moreover, the working through of each permutation and tension of the characters' identities, across heritage, age, birth, wealth, gender, feels mechanistic rather than dramatic – like the methodical working of each face of a Rubik's cube. Tonally, it's a bit confused too. It's never clear, for instance, if the chavvy Glaswegian Chantelle is a character or a caricature, or if the wrestling is played as dance, or if we're meant to feel real physical jeopardy. Coupled with some ropey dialogue ("I will not have this hateful talk and mean words!") and irregular breaking of the forth wall, this feels at times like piece on the curriculum for excellence rather than the National Theatre.