Thrown (EIF)

Aug 8 2023 | By More

★★★★☆      Substantial

Traverse Theatre (EIF): Thu 3 – Sun 27 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

The National Theatre of Scotland’s Thrown, at the Traverse as part of the International Festival, is an intelligent and powerful piece of theatre.

In Nat McCleary’s play, four women join a team practising the Highland Games sport of backhold wrestling. There’s Helen (Maureen Carr), looking for friendship after the breakdown of her long marriage, Chantelle (Chloe-Ann Tylor), a would-be a social media influencer, Jo (Adiza Shardow), her childhood friend with a Highland father and a mother from Jamaica, and Imogen (Efè Agwele), a financially well-off Black woman returning to her birthplace of Scotland for the first time. Their trainer Pam (Lesley Hart) is herself struggling with questions of identity.

The cast of Thrown from NTS at the EIF. Pic: Julie Howden.

McCleary’s dialogue has a sparkle, believability and political heft. From it, director Johnny McKnight has fashioned a pacy and kinetic production, which does justice to the physical elements. Karen Tennent’s effective set is well lit by Lizzie Powell (although sometimes the lighting is literally a little flashy). Luke Sutherland’s composition and Tom Penny’s sound design also impress.

There is a great deal here about how the political landscape in Scotland has changed from class-based contention to expressions of identity. There is also an examination of how those fictions Scotland chooses to believe about itself do not always take account of everyone who lives here. Exploration of how there is ‘more than one sort of privilege’, and how those who suffer from different kinds of prejudice are not necessarily natural allies, is done with economy. It is always thought-provoking, and only rarely tends to the didactic.


It is far from dry, however and there is a real momentum to the show. Much of it is great fun – notably the best use of Bonnie Tyler seen on stage in many a year. The performers are uniformly excellent, with the love-hate relationship between Chantelle and Jo a particular highlight, with its deep connection and long-held grudges, a highlight.

The conflicts over the characters’ different outlooks mean this is never likely to turn into your typical feel-good story of sporting underdogs. There is, however, a spirited, consciousness-raising coda which is elegantly written, carefully shared out between the characters, guaranteed to uplift the audience – and almost certainly should have been cut. It is the only moment where easy platitudes threaten to surface, and unbalances the production to some degree.

The rest however, remains insightful, clever, funny and energetically staged.

Running time 1 hour 25 minutes (no interval)
Part of the Edinburgh International Festival
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St, EH1 2ED
Thursday 3 – Sunday 27 August 2023
Various times (not Mons) – see website
Tickets and details Book here.

EIF Website:

NTS Website:

A scene from Thrown from NTS at the EIF. Pic: Julie Howden.


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