There is nothing visibly unusual about teenager Evan, who kicks off his opening monologue with the line, “My problem is this. Ignorance. Complete blind ignorance.” Yet immediately, Euan Brockie’s pained delivery tells us this is not just another surly teenager. His portrayal of inner conflict is an illustration of the complex issues being presented in Jen Adam’s powerful work. This is Adam’s second play written for Black Dingo Productions. The first, Kiss Cuddle Torture – about domestic violence – was a subtle exploration. Warrior, on the theme on sectarianism, lays the issue and the characters affected by it firmly at the audience’s feet.
Warrior doesn’t give answers, but sends an audience away with the knowledge that one simple act, or word, or phrase can cause devastation.
We discover through a series of monologues that Evan has been arrested for online sectarian abuse and faces prison. But, as we hear from his mother and father we quickly appreciate that there is far more behind the story. Marilyn Wilson’s quiet portrayal of the mother brings out the woman’s vulnerability perfectly. Adam Tomkin’s proud and confident father is no less damaged, if not visibly. The contrast between these two players is ingenious and the way their overlapping dialogue cuts across each other with sharp accuracy keeps the drama at knifepoint focus.
The audience sits in single lines along each side of the small chapel of St. John’s Church. The actors tell their story directly with expert delivery, making the experience highly personal – and unnerving. Amy Gilmartin’s clean direction makes good use of the venue, moving the players between sections as if they were characters in the computer games that Evan obsesses over – hence the title of the play. There is a brief reference to ‘keyboard warriors’, but the full impact of this throwaway mention punches in later as the piece gathers pace.
Tomkins and Wilson also play a school-teacher and a former boss, respectively, giving us another perspective on Evan’s situation and background. Both actors do this with natural ease, creating further dramatic tension by exposing elements of humour within the dark script.
As the play progresses, Evan’s anger increases. Railing against the bullying he has and will suffer, his strong words echo beyond the playing space, resounding around the entire church. And so they should.
Early in the play, he tells us, with wisdom beyond his years, that you can be born black or gay, but you can’t be born a Catholic. Whether shrouded in the colours of a football strip, soaked up through learned behaviour, or swathed in ignorance over its religious roots, sectarianism is a simmering sore in Scotland’s cultural identity. But it is those keyboard warriors who lurk between the actor’s lines who are the most dangerous and insidious factor in the play. The judgement of other children, their parents, colleagues, teachers, and worst of all, journalists who dredge up the dirt on this beleaguered family stirs up sectarianism through sensationalism and mendacity.
As Evan’s father points out, what the press tells us isn’t what one set of people know to be true. Warrior doesn’t give answers, but sends an audience away with the knowledge that one simple act, or word, or phrase can cause devastation. Hopefully, there will be another chance for more people to see this important play after the Fringe frenzy ends.