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Stand By review at Army @ the Fringe, Summerhall – ‘compellingly authentic police drama’

Adam McNamara in Stand By at Army @ the Fringe, Edinburgh. Photo: The Other Richard Adam McNamara in Stand By at Army @ the Fringe, Edinburgh. Photo: The Other Richard
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“The job is fucked.” The phrase rings through Adam McNamara’s four-handed Scottish police drama Stand By like a refrain.

Presented as part of Army @ the Fringe, an arts programme hosted jointly by the Army and Summerhall at Hepburn House Reserve Centre, McNamara’s excellent play – staged by touring company Utter – draws an utterly authentic portrait of a public service starved of funding.

In Dundee, four police officers – Chris, Sparkles, Morticia and McFly – sit in a riot van, waiting to be called into action. They chat, they squabble, they play games and they twiddle their thumbs, as storylines slowly develop through the chatter of their radios, relayed effectively and engrossingly to the audience via individual earpieces.

Joe Douglas’ production, which literally unfolds on Natasha Jenkins’ black metal and blue neon set, takes its time, gradually observing the trickle-down pressures of a squeezed police service. Overworked and underpaid, McNamara’s tightknit unit has to juggle a rack of personal and professional problems, from marital trouble to maniacs wielding samurai swords.

The four-strong cast excels, capturing the tension and terse humour of McNamara’s text with superbly astute naturalism. There’s little to fault here. Stand By is well worth a New Town trek.

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Verdict
Compellingly authentic police drama, played out superbly on stage and through earpieces
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