WRITER Douglas Maxwell received advice from an unwanted critic at the first night of his play Decky Does A Bronco, at the Edinburgh Festival last year.

Two minutes into the production, a man on a bicycle shouted out, loud enough for the audience to hear, "This is rubbish".

His language was actually more colourful than permissible in a family newspaper, but you get the drift.

Maxwell views this critical intervention as one of the hazards of staging a play outdoors in public leisure spaces. Onlookers and the weather are equally uncontrollable.

"When you're in a children's park, it's their park and they feel free to criticise," he says.

Grid Iron's production of Decky Does A Bronco comes to Newcastle's Nunsmoor Park on a national tour after winning an Edinburgh Fringe First. Not only is the location unusual for a piece of theatre but so is the set, which consists of swings.

This is so Decky can do a bronco. Now a bronco involves standing on a swing, working up level with the bar, kicking the swing over your head and jumping beneath it. "It looks ace and makes a hell of a racket," says Maxwell, winner of Scottish Youth Theatre's Young Playwright Award in 1995.

The story tells of five young boys hanging out in a swing park in Girvan in the West of Scotland. Maxwell recalls that his cousin gave him the idea for the play four years ago, when his writing career reached crisis point.

"I'd written 23 full-length plays in five years. Out of them, there were only five decent ones," he says. "I was getting nowhere when my cousin and me went out for a drinking and began talking about bronchoing."

A cross between vandalism and sport is how he describes the activity, which he saw would make the basis for a good play. Two weeks later he'd finished the first draft of a piece that was the only thing he'd written based on real experiences, rather than the whodunits and middle-aged plays he'd been penning.

He sent the script to several children's companies but it took a couple of years before anyone responded and he had the chance to develop the script at the Performing Arts Lab in Kent. The play proved perfect for Grid Iron, a theatre company specialising in creating innovative and interesting theatre in unusual venues.

The current tour was rehearsed in a big church in Edinburgh where the custom-built swings, bigger than those found in most parks, were screwed to the floor. Maxwell had first go at doing a bronco.

"I was never that good as a kid but now I'm the world's expert.

"I went up and did the first bronco on the set. I hadn't done one since I was about nine. I put my back out and crashed into the pews," he says.

The cast of eight were trained by a stunt co-ordinator on how to swing and land safely. They were auditioned on reading the script and warned "there would be some leaping about" he says.

"Most of them had done bronco before. When you are inside it's much scarier than you think it is. Outside, it looks okay." Decky Does A Bronco will be seen in London before returning to this summer's Edinburgh Festival where it will be performed alongside another of Maxwell's plays Our Bad Magnet.

"I'm a bit worried about London because it's not the most sophisticated piece of writing. The writing isn't the best thing about it. It's a performance piece really."

So far, the cast has suffered nothing more serious than broken ribs, stubbed toes and twisted knees. "It's on grass so it's not too dangerous," says Maxwell. "We do have to state over the Tannoy, 'don't try this at home'.

"But kids do far more dangerous versions with somesaults and everything else."

Decky Does A Bronco is in Nunsmoor Park from June 12-16 at 7.30pm. For ticket details call

0191-230 5151.