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Gagarin Way

Gregory Burke
Traverse, Edinburgh
(2001)

This wonderful play at The Traverse deserves a wide audience and is scheduled to get one as it travels to the Cottesloe Theatre in London after the Festival.

This is Gregory Burke's first play which is very hard to believe. It is filled with sparkling wit with heavy irony and seems to consider almost the whole of life and contemporary society in 90 minutes This is done within the structure of a standard thriller based on the old premise of the kidnapping of the wrong man. Burke writes in language appropriate to his native Dunfermline and it takes a minute or two to tune into the accents.

It soon becomes apparent that a security guard and a burglar are discussing Sartre (a man who could manage a snappy title) and Genet with great wit and perception. The knack of getting to the heart of an issue is one that Burke has in abundance.

Michael Nardone, as the apparent burglar is excellent both in his comic timing throughout this very funny play and also in his ability to portray a man who is both very threatening and highly intellectual.

As the play develops, we are introduced to Billy MacElhaney, as a rather wimpish idealistic anarchist, and to Maurice Roeves as the very liberal representative of Capitalism who gets kidnapped even though he isn't Japanese. He plays the part of the cool, detached businessman absolutely convincingly.

Burke's themes are wide-ranging and include suicide economics, capitalism, globalisation, global warming, anthropology, Alzheimer's disease and politics amongst many others. His grasp of all of these deep issues is conveyed well and his use of the ordinary man to do this makes light what might otherwise have seemed unduly heavy. He also manages to introduce us to four very human characters.

It would be a surprise if this play did not win a Fringe First and if Gregory Burke did not become a very successful playwright.

Peter Lathan also reviewed this production. You'll find his review here.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher