Edinburgh review: Four Woke Baes – Underbelly Cowgate

First published in The Times, Friday August 16 2019

Three Stars

At various points during Jonathan Caren’s new play (set at a bachelor party on the Colorado River) the simmering tension that the writer and his cast work hard to sustain threatens to boil over. The script even includes its own backwoods equivalent of Chekhov’s gun: a hunting rifle that gets waved around with intent, only to finally go off in the most apologetic of ways.

This sense of anticlimax is symptomatic of the piece as a whole, which repeatedly raises the prospect of fireworks, only to keep confounding our expectations. Caren’s frequently sharp dialogue and the convincing performances take precedence in a play that is dramatically uneventful.

Four Woke Baes


Uneventful, indeed, is the aspiration the four bros of the title harbour for Dez’s (Noah Bean) river-rafting stag weekend. After all, they’ve outgrown the kind of raucous gathering that saw one of their friends go home with the stripper on the eve of his nuptials. While Andre (Michael Braun) is happily married, Sean (Matt Stadelmann) is recovering from a painful separation. Even Boardman (Quincy Dunn-Baker), the group’s loose canon, appears content to spend a couple of days barbecuing, drinking and communing with nature.


Their hoped-for tranquillity is disrupted when a young woman, Emma (Lyndsey Fonseca), arrives and stakes claim to their camping plot. She’s understandably nervous of sharing the pitch with four men, no matter how easy-going they claim to be. “Try not to murder me,” she says, only half-jokingly. In fact, it is the guys who are most unsettled by the presence of a forthright young woman in their midst, not least when she reveals herself to be the author of a book challenging traditional relationships and monogamy.

Four Woke Baes


The atmosphere of the riverside encampment appears charged, but Caren settles for a reasoned (if hardly profound) debate on commitment and concession in relationships. The situation rarely feels like more than contrivance, but there are plenty of entertaining moments in Teddy Bergman’s production thanks to the well-observed writing and impeccable acting.


Box office: 0131 510 0395, to August 25

Author: Allan Radcliffe

I am a writer, freelance journalist, subeditor and theatre critic, based in South Queensferry. My short fiction has been published in anthologies such as Out There, Elsewhere, The Best Gay Short Stories, ImagiNation, Markings, Gutter, New Writing Scotland and Celtic View. I have won the Scottish Book Trust's New Writer's Award and several of my stories have been adapted for broadcast on BBC Radio 4. As a journalist I write regularly for The Times, the Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald, Sunday Times, Metro, Big Issue and I was formerly assistant editor of The List magazine.

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