The Whip Hand (4 stars)

The Whip Hand

David Monteith-Hodge

A strong cast drive down the middle of the ethical divide

It's certainly a memorable 50th birthday celebration. Working class Dougie has summoned his family to the flashy new house of his ex-wife Arlene and her suave new partner Lorenzo. He has discovered that he is the last descendant of a drippingly wealthy sugar baron – but rather than being quids in, he reveals that he wants to make amends for the horrors enacted by his slave-driving ancestors.

Douglas Maxwell's tautly written The Whip Hand is a complex examination of grey areas and privilege – the middle ground between Lorenzo's fridge stuffed with craft beer and Dougie's tins of Tennent's, the wealth gap between Arlene's first marriage and her second, the different futures that are open to cousins Molly and Aaron.

Maxwell has crammed so much into The Whip Hand that it's almost too much to detangle and make sense of. Director Tessa Walker has to move at a fair pace to get through all the twists and turns, and occasionally the pace falters. It is redeemed, though, by its savage and dark humour, and an excellent cast. Louise Ludgate is outstanding as the sassy, fiery Arlene, and there is a fine performance too from Michael Abubakar's Aaron.

Traverse, until 27 Aug (not 14, 21), times vary, £21.50 (£9.50--£16.50).

The Whip Hand

  • 4 stars

Traverse Theatre Company and Birmingham Repertory Theatre Dougie has just turned 50 and his family are throwing him a party. But it’s he who has the surprise. A bombshell proposal. He wants his ex-wife Arlene to back his new endeavour. He wants to serve a global cause, to make right a terrible wrong, even if it puts…

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