Leith Arches which hosts 1902 is very close to my home and Leith is very close to my heart. Though I will never be a Leither I’ve always felt at home here. Leith has real character and the people are genuine and straight talking. This play, from Saltire Square, captures that authenticity. The plot follows four young men: Deeks (Nathan Scott-Dunn), Sambo (Alexander Arran Cowan), Zippy (Cameron Docker), and Frankie (Josh Brock) from Leith (not Edinburgh!) who borrow money from a gangster to buy tickets to the 2016 Scottish Cup Final where the Leith based team Hibernian faced Rangers. The title refers to the fact that 1902 was the year Hibs had last won the Scottish Cup and it took 114 years for them to win it again!

1902: physical, passionate, and moving

Co-director and star of the show Scott-Dunn told the National newspaper that it’s the play’s authenticity that cuts through to audiences of all types.

“I think the show itself has like a strong sense of identity and I’ve also written it phonetically, it’s how we talk.

“If you went to a pub, and you’re sat there then these conversations are the real conversations that you will hear. It’s the authenticity I think, I think authenticity is what sells the show a lot because you know it’s real.”

The actors are very physical and in each other’s faces and even, sometimes, the audience. Their energy and passion are contagious – whether it is when they are arguing with each other, bursting into football chants, or describing the Scottish Final. The writer has a real ear for dialogue/banter. One thing this show communicates is how working-class lads bond and communicate with each other. We see their family dilemmas (the relationship between Deeks and elder brother Tony relationship isn’t exactly harmonious!), love interests, and lack of opportunities but beyond all that, we see their loyalty to each other. The relationships between them are turbulent and shifting but at base, they know they need one another. The barmaid in the pub where the action takes place, Mags, is great.

There’s a lot of humour in 1902 so it is a real mix of light and dark. I’d have to rate this as one of the most powerful performances I’ve seen. It’s immersive and sometimes that’s funny and sometimes it borders on intimidating. One thing is certain – 1902 makes you feel and it makes you think.

One of the things that I admired most about 1902 is that it avoids sentimentality and ends on a positive note. In fact, it ends with the great Proclaimers/Hibs anthem ‘Sunshine on Leith’ which echoed around the stadium when Hibs won the cup. The motto of Leith is ‘Persevere’ and you know that the characters in the play will do just that – together.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Saltire Sky’s 1902 is running until August 30 at the Edinburgh Fringe and tickets can be purchased here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/1902 Look out for the tour!

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