-By Thomas Robinson
Before I entered the theatre to view Paddy Cunneen’s Fleeto I was excited but, it must be said, somewhat apprehensive. As a native Glaswegian I often worry about the portrayal of my home city’s notorious “ned” culture, which has, in the past, inspired both terrific (such as Ken Loach’s The Angels’ Share) and terrifically dreadful (Shellsuit Bob – need I say more?) interpretations in works of film, theatre and television alike. Fleeto, however, is an interesting and ambitious piece, written in Glaswegian dialect yet in a verse form more akin to Shakespeare’s Padua than the south-side’s Pollok and set on an almost empty stage, save two wooden chairs. The play deals with the impact of knife crime amongst young adults, tackling initially the feelings experienced by those affected by a murder and then moves fluidly towards an examination of the social aspects of and possible reasons behind thug culture
Paddy Cunneen’s writing is a fresh and innovative narrative, which allows the audience to view the piece with the intellect it deserves, while remaining faithful to the gritty voice of working class Glasgow. Subtle imagery punctuates the dialogue and highlights the social ignorance identified by Cunneen, while the use of a gang to perform the function of a Greek Chorus seeks to elevate the standard of the piece, bring new life to it and show the impact of peer pressure on individuals within a tribe-like gang. While dealing with a harrowing subject matter, Cunneen still injects appropriate doses of black humour sporadically throughout, giving the audience some anaesthetic for the heavy themes, while never distracting from the harsh realities presented onstage.
The function of the Police Officer (Stuart Bowman) is to shed a new light on the issue of knife crime as he struggles to cope with the emotional demands of his career, while the Mother (Anita Vettesse) allows the audience to see the humanity which lies in everyone, no matter what social class you come from, or whatever actions you make. The final scene, which sees her discuss society, class and the impace of these on knife crime with the (at this point unknown to her) muderer of her son Mackie (Scott Reid), offers a touching and insightful glimpse into the workings of both characters minds – if not feeling a little uncomfortable to watch. The performances of the 4 central characters are all equally strong and the piece relies heavily on the actors’ ability to conjure up the environment in the bare, intimate Edinburgh theatre.
While the play doesn’t seek to solve any issues directly, it makes the audience aware that thug behaviour is not always desired by these so-called neds themselves. It highlights the ignorance of the masses, who dismiss the behaviour of those worse off than them as nothing but mindless hooliganism. Cunneen shows knife crime should be considered with a more mature attitude and gives the audience a glimpse into the more human aspects of ned-culture and of the individual’s role within a gang. Fleeto makes clear that ned-culture is a filthy scab on suburban Scotland, but one which must be understood in order to be healed.
-Thomas saw Fleeto at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh on 9th May 2013