The Whip Hand

From birthday party to bedlam – that’s the curve of The Whip Hand, a play at the Traverse by Douglas Maxwell that explores family tensions and collective guilt.

Jonathan Watson gives a strong performance as Dougie, the 50 year old who is celebrating his birthday at the comfortable home of his ex-wife, Arlene, and her new husband, Lorenzo. Dougie wants to give a “presentation ” but can’t get the PowerPoint to work, even with the help of his nephew, Aaron.

His message to be conveyed is simple. He has been informed by email that he is the last descendant of a well known Glasgow slave ship captain, and that a substantial cash payment to a charity helping descendants of the enslaved would be appropriate. His idea is to use the nest egg intended to fund the university career of his daughter, Molly, to make this payment.

Dougie’s ex-wife, Arlene, explodes at the thought. Convinced the whole idea is an online scam, she proceeds to give Dougie a frank and free appraisal of his character. All the tensions of class, and lifestyles, and aspirational living are whipped up a storm by Arlene in a fireball performance by Louise Ludgate. Not only that, an underlying darker past of racism and mindless violence emerges that forces the family and us to confront social attitudes in a wider sense.

Michael Abubakar, as Dougie’s mixed race nephew, is the fulcrum of this drama – a drama that pulls many punches and descends into mayhem.


Traverse Theatre at various times until August 27th.


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