Stand By – Assembly Roxy

Written by Adam McNamara

Directed by Joe Douglas & Jo Rush

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Police brutality. Corruption, and failure to hold those to account – it’s remarkably safe to say that the scrutiny surrounding the Police Force has done nothing but escalate in recent months – let alone years, and in truth it’s difficult to argue against this. Created in 2017, the narrative has already advanced, but the story, methodology and intentions of Adam McNamara’s Stand By remains poignant and noteworthy.

Personal lives, money worries, sandwiches and shagging – funnily, the polis have roughly the same anxieties and desires we all share. Across the board, the entire cast capture the humanity and vulnerability often left out of the televised dramas. This is the crux of Stand By, not to absolve the shortcomings of bureaucratic policies, but humanise the day to day uniforms on the streets. 

Written and starring, Adam McNamara brooks being the de-facto leader of the team – Chris, known as GI, struggles with the difficulties of the lack of understanding, time, and empathy present from the job. It’s choking his relationship, his family, and his own wellbeing. McNamara writes and performs from experience, the language communal and coarse, but free-flowing and authentic.

But Chris is no angel either. His relationship with fellow officer Rachel comes to fruition as one less than professional, but rather one with a substantial emotional connection. There’s solid chemistry between McNamara and Nalini Chetty, going beyond the physical as Chetty’s intimacy and concern is the most open demonstration of humanity on stage.

Stand By’s principal technique is to merge audiences into the piece as fluidly as possible. A multi-sensory piece, this extends beyond Natasha Jenkin’s streamlined and clever stage design and Kate Bonney’s lighting design, but sound is the key here – as each audience member receives a coms-unit, an earpiece to hear the sergeants back at the station and the control’s rooms attempt at finding order. On occasion, audiences hear a direct feed to the team or one member – it’s an inventive manner to introduce a new dimension for audiences, one which could potentially be utilised further.

McNamara’s double-edged sabre is the monotony captured throughout the script, which inevitably leads to an exhilarating rush when the action eventually unfolds and offers an experience of the endless waiting – but it does drive the pacing down in moments. As a piece of interactive theatre, some audiences may feel uneasy about these lengthier silent moments, but for authenticity, it adds more to the production than most will realise. The heightened emotion, the combustible nature all kettled together in this small van – it’s a pressure cooker.

Which all comes to a head between Mary and Davey – both Laurie Scott and Andy Clark, who have largely been the production’s comedic pairing, deliver a violent and explosive moment of emotional outpouring. Clark utilises a wealth of understanding of emotion to suck the air from the audience, silencing anyone rustling or fidgeting. And as much as we may be disappointed in a character who fails to recognise the power of a Fisher & Donaldson’s Fudge Doughnut or Coffee Tower – Scott’s Marty provides the most accessible point for entry for audiences, an officer who still maintains his work-life balance and is slowly starting to struggle with the idea of sticking to the job.

We all think we know how it goes, The Job. They sit in a car, waiting for you to edge out an amber light, or maybe they fancy ruining your day with a ticket or tax check. McNamara’s insightful piece offers a sliver into the life behind the flashing blues. And as conversations have only intensified – it offers a refreshing insight into the mental and emotional states of those protecting us, and perhaps, to put down the papers and offer a sense of empathy.

Stand By runs at the Assembly Roxy until March 23rd. Tickets for which can be obtained here.

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