Theatre Review: Spliced, Traverse @ Edinburgh Sports Club (Venue 467), Edinburgh

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Plays about masculinity and its crises are far from rare on the Fringe.

In creating a solo drama with its roots in the remarkable world of hurling, though – the thrilling and intensely physical Irish form of hockey that is often described as the world’s fastest game on grass – writer and performer Timmy Creed finds an autobiographical context for the discussion that lends itself both to a powerful piece of physical theatre, staged in the perfect arena of a squash court at the Edinburgh Sports Club, and to a reflection on the sheer power of the ties that bind men to a world of sport often defined by its machismo, and its inability to deal with emotional vulnerability.

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For as Gina Moxley’s beautifully-crafted production fully understands, for people growing up in many parts of Ireland hurling is not just a sport, but a prime expression of national identity, run by an organisation, the GAA, whose emergence in the late 19th century was closely associated with the struggle for Irish independence.

Timmy’s early success in hurling, after he joins a local club in a working-class area of Cork, is therefore a huge source of pride; and his gradual realisation that the sport is not enough, and that he needs to escape into the world of theatre, and of much more fluid ideas about masculinity, therefore carries an extra edge of pressure, and of possible betrayal.

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In the end, the story of how Timmy navigates this shift is familiar from many other narratives of men escaping working-class cultures where machismo is the norm, and finding richer lives.

Yet his final account of the reception of his play in GAA clubs around Ireland is exciting in itself and suggests that this is a play designed to hit well above its weight, in Irish communities all across the island and beyond.

Until 25 August. Today 2:30pm. ****

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