There is something sad about leaving Stand and Deliver, accompanied by the sound of the Adam Ant song referenced in the title of the show. Tobacco Tea Theatre’s piece never really rises above the laziness that the use of this song suggests on behalf of the creative team, but then, it doesn’t appear to try to do so.
Every artistic choice is ill-conceived - indulgent to the point of despair
The play’s plot is deceptively simple. In the 1730s, two politicians plot to seize the deed to a valuable spice island, their plot thwarted by a highwayman – a roadside thief who has acquired their deed. A price is on this man’s head, and there is only one woman brave enough to stop him, or possibly join him. After her dark backstory is laughably revealed through an expositional encounter with a prostitute, this woman sets out to find the highwayman; a lacklustre quest aiming for and missing thrills, comedy and any sense of adventure.
One of the taglines being used to sell Stand and Deliver on the Royal Mile this Fringe is the phrase 'Tarantino meets Blackadder'. It is hard to say whether this is more of a lie or an insult. The piece aims to emulate Blackadder, perhaps, but favours pantomime tactics over the sharp comedy associated with Rowan Atkinson’s television masterpiece. Each of the cast’s performances is slightly more ridiculous than the last, leaving us with caricatures that do not leave a lasting impression and rarely provide comic relief.
And Tarantino? Well, past some transitional music that is ripped straight from the films Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill and Django Unchained, and some red lighting states, there isn’t a lot to back this claim. The genre is crime, sure, but the dialogue is rarely snappy and never interesting. The music itself attempts to drag the piece into modernity in the first half, then drops this idea in favour of a western theme. The rest of the music is lifted from Ennio Morricone’s songbook. Every artistic choice is ill-conceived - indulgent to the point of despair over a lack of any consistency in style.
Sadly, this is one of the worst types of show that can be found at the Fringe. A simple, inoffensive piece of new writing that steals from a wide range of source materials, collating it into a show that is cliched and boring. This lack of originality is surely a cardinal sin in such a prestigious environment? With the motto of the festival this year inviting us to step 'Into the Unknown', Stand and Deliver feels ludicrously out of place.