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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Political comedy packs a punch
Maurice Roeves and Billy McElhaney
Maurice Roeves and Billy McElhaney star
By BBC News Online's Darren Waters in Edinburgh

Gagarin Way is the debut play by Scottish writer Gregory Burke who ambitiously says he wanted to write about the 20th Century.

Set in Fife, the play revolves around the kidnapping of a multi-national executive (Frank) by an old-school communist (Gary) and a disaffected worker (Eddie) and a young security guard (Tom) who is dragged by his hair into the action.

It is a political comedy and Burke has written first-class dialogue that crackles and snaps along with wit and invention.

Eddie, the worker with a wide streak of violence who has been "outflanked by the fluid nature of modern demographics", says: "I'm not an anarchist. I don't like labels and I'm kinda partial to a Big Mac. Which kinda disqualifies me from the anarchist movement."

Gregory Burke
Burke has made his play relatively rhetoric-free
But Burke is much more than just a comedy writer - as the audience roars with belly laughs he creeps up on the blindside and delivers his message as a sharp knife in the ribs.

The big themes - capitalism, communism, history, economics, labour and politics - are all here and Burke confronts them with the skill of playwright Alan Bleasedale.

The play has much in common with Everything Must Go, written by Patrick Jones, the brother of Manic Street Preachers' bassist Nicky Wire.

Both plays are set in former industrial heartlands with a strong history of socialism and both confront the impact of multi-nationalism on the area.

But it is to Burke's credit that Gagarin Way - so called because of a street in Fife named after the Russian cosmonaut - is relatively rhetoric free where Jones' play scattered rhetoric like a Gattling gun.

The four actors Michael Nardone (Eddie), Michael Moreland (Tom), Billy McElhaney (Gary) and Maurice Roeves (Frank) give faultless performances and form a powerful ensemble.

They go through the gears from comedy to drama and tragedy almost imperceptibly and the audience has to temper its laughs with nervousness because Burke is always lurking with the knife in his hand.

Gregory Burke's play works so handsomely, so completely, because the play is not about monolithic-isms, it is about people who have become slaves to those -isms.

Gagarin Way is at the Traverse Theatre until 25 August.

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