There’s a real sense of excitement in the run-up to
A powerful, insightful drama with much to say and a bold, blackly comic way of saying it.
Except, Stand By is quite an appropriate choice of title; this show is focused on four police officers stuck in their van, waiting to be called in to support a police negotiator in a nearby block of flats who’s trying to deal with a hostage situation. When the action finally happens, it’s off-stage—suggested only by sounds, lights and the buzz of half-discernible radio messages in our ears. What we witness here are the sides of police work than don’t usually get shown. The waiting. The boredom. The personal doubts and annoyances. The all-too-real consequences.
Natasha Jenkins’ set, a metal-framed abstract of a police van, is almost certainly larger than the real thing, and opened out even further early in the course of the play. However, although director Joe Douglas chooses not to realistically recreate the enforced physical intimacy between the four characters, the emotional consequence of them living in each other’s pockets are in full focus—from the not-so-gentle ribbing about who’s on tea-making duty, and the proper etiquette for buying cakes for everyone on your birthday, to not discussing the strain of the job on family.
Writer Adam McNamara, who also plays lead officer Chris (aka ‘GI’), is a former Police Officer himself, so there’s a real sense of authenticity in both the situation, the characters, and the under-resourced reality of life in Police Scotland. Admittedly the language, although hardly pre-Watershed, has probably still been toned down for theatrical ears. McNamara is ably supported by Andy Clark as experienced officer Davey (aka ‘Sparkles’), Jamie Marie Leary as Rachel (aka ‘Morticia’) and Laurie Scott as former Met-officer Marty (aka, ‘McFly’). Their characters are strongly defined, but not without surprising details only revealed in extremis.
As writer, McNamara is not above having his characters mock TV and film police dramas on the grounds of their dramatic cliches and lack of realism, but he’s arguably also guilty himself: a budding relationship between two of the characters doesn’t sit easily, but the seeming inevitability of its likely ending is frankly disappointing. Nevertheless, this is still a powerful, insightful drama with much to say and a bold, blackly comic way of saying it.