Sadiq Ali and David Banks bring Stuntman to the Edinburgh Fringe’s Summerhall, with the Pete Lannon directed production examining the links between masculinity and violence. In this exploration Sadiq and David utilise humour, dance, monologue, and stuntwork to craft this subtly tender and reflective piece.
Stuntman sees friends Sadiq and David recount personal stories about their relationship with violence, progressing from a youthful fascination with action movies to a more troubling understanding of the impact of violence physically and its effects on the concept of masculinity.
As we enter Summerhall’s sizzlingly hot Techcube, Sadiq and David engage in a mix of hand to hand combat, with playful fighting, slapping and flips taking place on Rachel O’Neill’s cinematic set. The performers laugh and remark on each other’s moves as the audience file in – all soundtracked to Top Gun anthem ‘Highway to the Danger Zone’ and Rocky classic ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ Two circular light fixtures sit at either side of the stage blasting atmospheric hues of blues and reds across the venue. The opening mood is playful and high energy, something which continues as David begins to recount starring in an Aberdeen shot straight to DVD action flick titled Maximum Impact – he does so with an infectious excitement and some well-pitched comic storytelling.
Sadiq and David’s action montages, whilst retaining a sense of fun, grow increasingly more violent with an assortment of guns and weapons brought into these interspersed bits. Sadiq opens up about his lack of desire to ever embrace violence, despite having a desire to push others to those limits in times of confrontation. The magnetic performer opens up about homophobic insults thrown his way, before delving into a blisteringly power monologue about how he inherently wants to respond to his bigoted tormenters with a relentless violence. It is a devastatingly powerful moment likely to hit home to any members of the LGBTQ+ community in the audience that have turned the other cheek to cruel comments, insults or bigotry. Sadiq accompanies this with an enchanting solo dance routine, capturing the line between the beauty and grace of physical movements juxtaposed with the previous themes of violence and aggression that Stuntman explores.
David impresses in a similarly reflective monologue. Initially telling the story of his first MMA fight with a gratuitous gusto in the early moments of Stuntman. He shares the anecdote capturing his boyish enthusiasm and pride at victory in a professional fight. Later it is retold: more sombre, more uncomfortable, harder for the performer to get the words out. David delivers this with a reflective sincerity and quiet acknowledgement of the brutality and bodily destruction the fight encouraged. “I’m waiting for him to say ‘you don’t have to do this, it’s ok. You don’t have to do this,” David shares regarding the melting pot of fear, masculinity and violence that echo throughout the monologue.
Presenting depictions of aggression with a sense of playful fun, alongside graphic and damaging realistic reflections of violence allows for a rich theatrical examination of the relationship between violence and masculinity. Sadiq and David explore this with an absorbing sincerity, well-pitched sense of humour, and sharp personal insight.
Get tickets for Stuntman here.