DECKY DOES A BRONCO
by Douglas Maxwell.
Tour to 18 September 2010.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 June at Becket’s Park Northampton (for Royal and Derngate Theatre).
It’s not what you say, it’s the place where you say it.
Eight years after it was last seen, Grid Iron Theatre revive Ben Harrison’s production of Douglas Maxwell’s play about the coming of responsibility into childhood, set around, and very much on, playground swings. By any account Decky’s an acute look back at a summer when friendships among nine-year-olds were based on who lived near whom, and were expressed by joining in a bronco.
It’s set in Maxwell’s Ayrshire homeland; not rolling acres and Robbie Burns, but a bleak council estate where a group of nine-year-old boys make this play-space their meeting-ground. They’ve replaced sitting on the seat of a swing with standing on it. And they swing higher and higher, till it’s possible to do a bronco, jumping off and leaving the seat to fly over the top bars, wrapping the chains round the frame.
Everyone can do it, except Decky. And Decky, stomping stoically along with a shamefaced determination in Ben Winger’s portrayal, is so determined to add himself to the bronco-busters he comes back alone to practise at night. Which is how trouble really befalls him. The mood darkens accordingly in the play’s latter part as the other boys’ adult selves reflect on what happened.
Grid Iron don’t play in theatres. Decky performs in a park. Looking back to childhood while sitting atop the swings, the adult David sets a tone of wistful memory about events two decades before, with an unhappy inflection soon forgotten in the excitement of the first ensemble bronco.
It’s forgotten too in such details as Barry’s challenge to beat his own biking record between park and home, part of the equirement to be back for tea by five. Then there’s the admired O’Neill. Not for him the constant fighting that somehow expresses the friendship between Decky and Chrissie.
There’s adult guilt as the characters’ adult selves surround the action, finally commenting on their childhood mix of solidarity and conflict, as grief and loss increasingly fall across the action, while natural light darkens across the parkland. For this is a piece where location, location, location is truly integral to the playwright’s darker purpose.
Barry: Ross Allan.
Adult Bary: Finn den Hertog.
O’Neill: David Elliot.
Adult O’Neill: Nicky Elliott.
Chrissie: Gavin Wright.
Adult Chrissy: John Kielty.
David: Martin McCormick.
Decky: Ben Winger.
Director: Ben Harrison.
Designer: Simon Owen.
Lights: George Tarbuck.
Composer: Philip Pinsky.
Costume: Alice Bee.
Assistant director: Catrin Evans.