Gagarin Way

Scotland has a bit of a communist history. Lumphinnans was once referred to as “Little Moscow”. It even has a street named after the famous Russian Cosmonaut, Gagarin Way. From the playwright behind Black Watch, Gregory Burke’s first play returns to the Fringe, where it premiered 14 years ago.

It’s gripping and strangely appealing.

Tom, a security guard, looks to make some money by enabling a bit of thievery, but instead gets wrapped up in an attempted act of terror against the forces of multinational capitalism. This description alone may not get the tone across. This is an absurdist comedy; think Pulp Fiction with more of a brogue. Nothing happens, nothing is discussed and weapons are slung casually around the room with absolutely no respect for human life.

The majority of the comedy comes from finding intelligence where one expects stupidity and vice versa. Tom, with his college degree and his insistence that he’ll be getting a real job soon, knows very little about the world. Eddie, on the other hand, working-class and slightly unhinged, speaks knowledgeably about Sartre and the “propaganda of the deed”, all while swearing profusely. It’s effective, and though the script is slightly abridged, the tension between the comedic ridiculousness of the characters and the very serious reality of the situation emphasizes both.

That said, the climax fails to land with appropriate weight. Ironically, the act of violence fails to meet the sheer brutality of its threat.

The performances, high paced and utterly matter-of-fact, were generally well done. I did wish that, like the script entails, Jack Borland and Alex Dickson’s characters fell into Scottish speech patterns as the play went on. Instead, Borland started too Scottish and Dickson too English so, drawn in by the prevailing communist-nationalist sentiment, there was no space to travel. While I’m nitpicking, there was also a lot of action low down and downstage, which made it impossible to see from the second row. There are few things more frustrating than a disregard for sightlines.

The highlight is certainly Stewart Kerr’s Eddie. He lets the terrible drama of violent insurrection roll off him so easily and handles complications with either a shrug or a sudden burst of dangerous energy. It’s gripping and strangely appealing; even with the knowledge that he’s a deranged criminal with murderous intent, he’s likeable.

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Performances

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The Blurb

Burke’s play is a factory-heist comedy featuring four men, not quite ready to embrace the values of an outsourced economy. Set against the backdrop of a Scottish factory, a less-than-competent kidnap leads to some serious and funny soul-searching. When the gang differ over what to do with their victim, the plan collapses into dark comedic madness. Gagarin Way is a comic thriller that will catch you completely off-guard and leave you wondering just how far the pace of industrial change will take us.

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