Gagarin Way ***

Gagarin Way is a modern Scottish classic.  Set in a factory in Fife, the action sees a crime go horribly wrong and four characters thrown completely over the edge.  It is a political thriller told from the point of view of the oppressed and is filled with tension, ideas and, surprisingly, much humour.

Played in the round, Maggie Inchley’s staging is intimate, sometimes to the extreme.  The actors loom over the audience (occasionally even brushing past them), and the action is so close that it is impossible to not feel as if you were somehow involved.  This makes the tension all the more potent and severe.

All four actors play their characters well.  They look great and play their mannerisms with complete believability.  But their faults show when it comes to their voices.  Yes, the play is performed in close proximity to the audience, but that doesn’t give them the permission to swallow words and whisper.  Much of the dialogue was garbled, even lost at times.  Only Phil Nichol was consistently in character and loud enough.  His Eddie is force to be both amazed by and feared, and it is one of the best performances I’ve seen in the Festival thus far.

It’s a shame that the vocals get in the way, because when this production moves it works rather well.  Perhaps with more runs, the actors will grow in confidence and take this to the brilliant heights that Gregory Burke’s script can achieve.

As it is now, Gagarin Way is a good production of a great play that has mostly good performances but a commanding lead.  It also reaffirms Burke’s stance as one of Scotland’s leading writers.

Originally written for Onstage Scotland.

Playing at The Stand III at 13.00-14.15 until August 30.

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