Stand By

Aug 23 2017 | By More

★★★★★    Gripping

Army @ The Fringe in Association with Summerhall (Venue 210): Friday 11 – Saturday 26 August 2017
Review by Dylan Taylor

Adam McNamara’s outstanding Stand By profoundly examines the relationship between four officers amidst the unpredictable rhythms of life on the job.

This is a timely play that is handled in every aspect with a precise attention. Brought to the Fringe by Army @ The Fringe in Association with Summerhall and Utter Theatre, all of its elements are effortlessly blended together into an experience that is powerful and unforgettable.

Publicity image. Pic: Richard Davenport

The majority of the action revolves around the comedic banter between the officers, which is handled by McNamara’s writing with a realism that builds the characters, over the play’s short running time, into ones that feel three-dimensional as well as likeable.

Laurie Scott, as Marty (McFly), is the glue which holds together the majority of the comedy. His attempts to overcompensate for his small stature turn him into an easy target for the others, though his talkativeness is never lessened.

Andy Clark as Davey (Sparkles) does an excellent job handling both his humorous and serious lines. There is a great moment when, confronting Marty, Davey’s deeper shades of character are unexpectedly brought out.

Jamie Marie Leary is also funny as Rachel (Morticia), who acts as “straight-woman” to the rambunctious McFly and Sparkles. McNamara’s own Chris (GI), too, plays a more serious character, which helps keep the dynamics balanced.

Ear pieces

What is particularly interesting and original here is the use of ear pieces, which prove central to how the story is told. Each audience member is given one to wear for the entirety of the play. As the officers wait, the audience hears the same instructions – from Kirstin McLean and Ron Donachie (providing the voices of ZS and Steve, respectively).

The Cast of Stand By. Pic: Utter Theatre

It is a conceit that could not be integrated to such success in any other way, and which makes the play much more immersive.

There’s a sense of completeness to how all of the play’s elements are integrated, and the effects, all around, are excellent. Natasha Jenkins brings a design that heightens the underlying tension, accurately recreating the look of a police van with a large metal frame and fences. Large doors representing the back open towards the rear of the stage, and lights lining the frame occasionally glow during brief intermissions in which time is represented as passing.

Sometimes these interludes prove more interesting in concept, however, than they are in practice. The first two, in particular, feel jarring and out-of-place, mostly due to the way in which they are choreographed. The officers move abruptly, making dance-like movements as they grab their shields and move their seats about the stage. It is the only thing that feels off about an otherwise meticulously-handled production.

single environment

The use of a single environment – and an army reserve base as the venue – adds to the sense of realness. The closeness of the actors to the audience also makes one feel as if one is witnessing real-time dialogue between the officers.

Joe Douglas’ direction keeps everything running smoothly, and ensures McNamara’s dialogue is delivered with authenticity.

The music (courtesy of Kevin Murray’s sound design) and Kate Bonney’s lighting are particularly used to great effect towards the end of the play, in a scene in which the humorous atmosphere that has come before is wiped away by the tension of the rising drama.

The tonal shift from comedy to tragedy is brought about with a nuance that makes the overall message of the play a poignant one. Stand By‘s tremendous ability to integrate atmosphere, realism, and artistic design into one cohesive whole demonstrates the power of the medium itself. This is a piece of theatre not to be missed.

Running time 1 hour 20 minutes (no interval)
Army @ The Fringe in Association with Summerhall, 89 East Claremont Street, EH7 4HU (Venue 210)
Friday 11 – Saturday 26 August 2017
Daily (not Mon 14 or 21) at 6.45 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website:
Company website: Utter Theatre


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