A beige middle class living room greets the audience as they enter Traverse One within the Traverse Theatre on Cambridge Street. A sofa, record player, laptop and a large bookcase are all present. The Whip Hand is a family drama that focusses on one man’s attempt to right the wrong of his ancestors. However, the performance is not a straight forward linear story. Instead the plot weaves it’s way around the characters where deception, race, anger and family all come into play.
We begin whilst Dougie (Jonathan Watson) is seeking assistance from his nephew Aaron (Michael Abubakar). It is Dougie’s fiftieth birthday and he is celebrating by giving a presentation to his daughter Molly (Joanne Thomson), his ex-wife Arlene (Louise Ludgate) and her current husband Lorenzo (Richard Conlon). The presentation involves Dougie delivering an in-depth talk on how one of his ancestors named Saracen Bell owned a sugar cane plantation in Jamaica and cruelly exploited slaves for the benefit of his own wealth. As Dougie recounts this story, Arlene and Lorenzo seem more concerned about enjoying a drink. The frustration of the situation boils over when Dougie asks for money to give as compensation to the families of Saracen Bell’s plantation, however this would be at the expense of his daughter’s university education. A divide in the family occurs and the difference in social class between two factions surfaces. This is then heightened when the young black Aaron looks for answers on the whereabouts of his father. It sounds like a complicated story, but the complex and interweaving drama is brilliantly delivered by the cast and the audience is on board throughout the entire duration of the play.
The Whip Hand is written by Douglas Maxwell and directed by Tessa Walker. The strong and snappy writing allows the audience to indulge itself in the drama and watch the story unfurl before their eyes. The complexities of family relationships is presented in rich and powerful ways, where dialogue is delivered with gusto and relationships are laid bare. The script is funny, angry and powerful and The Whip Hand is an original and exciting piece of new writing that infuses vigour and energy into an atypical and enjoyable family drama.