REVIEW: Stand By – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Dundee. Present day. The claustrophobic back of a police riot van. Four officers wait for a negotiator to do his job, wait while a samurai sword-wielding man is threatening to kill himself and his baby son.

From the pen of former Tayside police officer Adam McNamara, Stand By isn’t your stereotypical adrenaline-filled police thriller, instead it’s a thought-provoking and highly arresting (forgive the unintentional pun) drama about the grim realities of life in the police force in 2017.

McNamara’s very real experience of the subject matter imbues the production with credibility, coupled with the wholly naturalistic, and expletive riddled dialogue, means the whole piece is grimly realistic and entirely believable.

McNamara effectively (and amusingly) conveys the mundane realities and frustrations of existing in such close quarters with your colleagues, and the thick skin required to deal with it. But, underneath the banter, much bigger discussions arise about the consequences (for both the officers and the public) of constant financial cuts, the day-to-day dangers and the personal costs of the job.

McNamara carries off the role of team leader Chris, with his precarious personal life, with gravitas, and Andy Clark is sure-footed as Dundonian police veteran Davey, hiding his own personal problems behind a sharp tongue and a world-weary wit. Jamie Marie Leary is an effective young officer determined to drag her colleagues into the 21st Century, and Laurie Scott is suitably annoying as mouthie new transfer from The Met, Marty, a man with a closet full of skeletons of his own to hide.

The production is greatly enhanced by Natasha Jenkin’s clever set design which perfectly confines the action and engenders a sense of psychological claustrophobia, while never limiting the drama. The clever use of the single-earpieces the audience wear, that convey messages from the police control room in real-time throughout the play, adds to the experience and gives a small glimpse into the pressure officers on a call are under. (A nice touch is that the voices are provided by some of Scotland’s finest actors – Ron Donachie, Richard Rankin and Jack Lowden to name a few).

This is an absolutely gripping piece of theatre (that would make a perfect TV police drama), a breath of fresh air that deserves to be seen by a much wider audience.

By the end, you really do believe the oft-repeated mantra: “the job is fucked”, and can’t help wonder what on earth the consequences will be for us all.