Stand By Your Van (2 stars)

This article is from 2009.

Stand By Your Van

An endurance test . . . for the audience

Stand By Your Van is essentially an updating of Horace McCoy’s They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, which focused on participants in a dance marathon during the great depression. In this version a disparate group of characters gathers to participate in a US-style Touch the Truck competition where the last one with their hands on the Nissan’s body wins the keys and, potentially, a boost to their flagging self-esteem.

Gradually stories emerge, and characters, the majority of them two-dimensional contemporary archetypes: wannabe WAG, Bible basher, bewjewelled mockney, boorish Scotsman and gormless Welshman among them. We learn of their demons and dreams in extended soliloquies, then, one by one, they’re eliminated from the game and from the show.

The problem doesn’t lie solely with the thin characterisations. The staging, in the vast Pleasance Grand, is all wrong for what is actually a fairly intimate piece of theatre. The intention, presumably, is to draw the audience to the edge of their seats as the game progresses, but the script is simply too long-winded to generate any tangible excitement.

Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 31 Aug (not 18, 25), 7.40pm, £10.

Stand By Your Van

  • 2 stars

Someone's gonna win a pick-up truck! All competitors have to do is be the last person to keep their hand on the 25,000 vehicle to win it! Easy, right? Wrong. An extraordinary 'live competition' play.


1. Phil1Edinburgh9 Aug 2009, 10:13am3 stars Stand By Your Van Report

Stand by your van -
Was a good fun, relaxing and unusual show to see. Well worth the visit.
Not much philosophy but at least there was a worthy winner. In the time allowed the characters were developed not as well as Hamlet or Othello but then the play is shorter and lighter. If you want a break give it a go.

2. charlie729 Aug 2009, 10:31am4 stars Stand By Your Van Report

I can't remember the last time i heard so many laughs in a piece of theatre. No, it isn't highbrow but it's charming and very entertaining!

3. Brian Johnson11 Aug 2009, 3:31am5 stars Stand By Your Van Report

This was hilarious - it's clearly a parody and brilliant for it - from the first moment i was gripped - it was Vantastic!!!

4. Alison Fairgrieve20 Aug 2009, 12:32pm

It is interesting to note that where some critics sneer, anyone who has contributed a review volunrtarily loved the show. " Stand By Your Van" is great entertainmennt and not at all shallow. The range of characters could be found anywhere in real life, though they seem rather less bizarre than those chosen for later versions of Big Brother.

The main attraction of the show is that it is enjoyable and exhilarating, performed by a united and talented cast in whom you believe, for a little time. There must be a good few much more tedious performances on the fringe at present. Go along for a great evening which finishes early and lets you go on somewhere else as well.

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