Fringe review – Stand By (rating: 5/5)
There are so many police dramas on television you could schedule almost an entire day watching cop shows.
So why spend a night out with the boys in blue at the theatre?
Well, if you like your drama closer to the real thing then this is as close as you’ll get without actually donning the uniform and joining the squad on operations.
As it turns out, each audience member is handed a single-earpiece on entry to hear messages transmitted from “Sarge” in the control room. It makes us part of the action, and all the better for this touch of participation. Every bleep alerts us to another order coming in.
The play opens with four riot police, three men and a woman, sitting in a van after being called out to a domestic dispute which may turn violent.
If you’re expecting gentle banter, then don’t go. The expletive-driven aggression makes even “gritty” television dramas like Line of Duty appear tame and shallow. The is honest and brutal, laced with disdain for criminals, cynicism towards the police service, and even for each other, though as in any “gang” situation the four officers also see themselves as comrades-in-arms.
We feel the tension and stress of coping with human failure and boredom, and of being caught between following orders and protecting themselves. The fierce radio instructions from a frustrated and angry “Sarge” adds to their weariness with the job. Without giving too much away, there is an emotional sub-plot.
With all four actors exchanging quick-fire dialogue amongst and against each other timing is crucial and the interplay is impeccable.
Written by a former police officer, Stand By lays bare the pressures of the modern day police service, a point made emphatically at its conclusion.
This is a first-rate production by a polished cast.
Stand By is part of the army’s first ever involvement at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It is performed at the Army reserve centre and drill hall in East Claremont Street, August 12-13, 15-20, 22-26