JOYCE MCMILLAN on STAND at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman, 30.5.15.

3 stars ***

IN THE LAST  15 years, something strange has happened to small and medium-scale British theatre.  Essentially, what was once an art-form primarily concerned with fiction has begun to morph into an arena for a much wider range of material, often based on verbatim accounts of the lives of people who now struggle to find a voice in other media.  And the result is that many shows, these days, present the same kind of appearance as Chris Goode’s latest work Stand, created with Oxford Playhouse, in which Goode and five other actors sit in a row on high stools, and spend 75 minutes performing the words of real people interviewed for the show – in this case, people who have taken a stand against something they believe to be wrong.

The interwoven stories collected here are all moving and powerful, whether it’s the eighty-something animal rights activist still demonstrating weekly outside Oxford’s main lab, or the black British woman, memorably played by Cathy Tyson, who has transformed a formidably difficult youth into a life helping victims of torture.  In the end, the dramatic shape of the show seems a little vague and arbitrary, too dependent on Goode’s own sound design to give us clues about when the narrative is reaching a crisis, or approaching an end.   It’s a series of stories well worth hearing, though, about how much richer people’s lives become, when they step beyond the passive acceptance broadly expected of modern consumer-citizens; and beautifully presented by a group of actors who have not only heard and learned these stories, but made them their own.

Traverse Theatre tonight, and the Arches, Glasgow, tomorrow.



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