Gagarin Way

Gagarin Way
Stand Comedy Club III (Venue 12)
3 stars ***

IT’S A FINE THING to see an audience more attuned to comedy piling into Stand III in York Place to see a 21st century Scottish play as fine as Gregory Burke’s Gagarin Way; and finer still to see four men from the world of stand-up – Phil Nichol, Jim Muir, Will Andrews and Bruce Morton – pitting themselves against its demands.

What follows, though, is pretty much an object lesson in how tough it is to perform this kind of action drama, while giving full value to every word of Burke’s famously witty and allusive text.  In a crisis-hit year when the kidnapping of overpaid bosses has become a popular form of industrial action in some parts of the world, Burke’s story of two employees at a Dunfermline microchip plant who decide – as a grand gesture of rebellion or rage – to kidnap and kill a visiting consultant from head office, has never been more topical; and all four men inhabit their roles with impressive intensity and commitment, with Nichol in particular capturing all the nihilistic nervous energy of the ringleader, Eddie.

In the end, though, the cast often seem defeated by the vocal demands of the piece, which depends on a combination of  clear articulation, rapid-fire Dunfemline street-speak, perfect timing, and plenty of projection, that often overwhelms even fully-trained actors.  The result is that many of the show’s brilliant comic one-liners disappear in the rush, or are salvaged by the audience a split-second too late; and although the play still makes its bleak and frightening point in the end, much of its rhythmic power, and some of its glorious intellectual and cultural detail, are lost in transit.

Joyce McMillan
Until 30 August
p. 197


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