What's Stand By about?
Stand By is about the police and how we protect our communities. The play tackles the severe pressures placed on police officers and the relationships forged between them. It's a really tense 75 minute long comedy-drama, which is set in a riot van outside a domestic incident that's about to turn violent - inside the house is a man with a baby wielding a samurai sword. To make the experience more immersive, the audience members wear single-earpiece headphones and hear the never-ending stream of incoming information that police officers have to handle whilst on the job.
What's your job on the show and how did you get involved?
I'm the associate director for the show's run at the Edinburgh Fringe and our tour of Scotland that follows. Joe Douglas, the show's director, who has developed the play with writer and actor Adam McNamara invited me to be part of the team because we've worked together on a few productions now and have a great dynamic between us, but also because his wife was due to have a baby midway through the rehearsal process. As a result it's been an unusual role for me because I've needed to be ready to step up and take over as director at any moment, but it's all gone very smoothly in the end - baby arrived safely last week and the show is looking great!
What has the development and rehearsal process been like?
Adam, our writer, is a former police officer who has since become an actor so the play is all drawn from his personal experiences which makes rehearsals fascinating because everything we're talking about is so real and the level of insight you get is pretty intense. Through rehearsals I've really appreciated that Adam is an actor as well as a writer because he puts so much trust in Joe and I as directors. He listens to everyone in the room, takes stuff on board, makes changes or cuts, and the play is definitely stronger for it. It's been a really collaborative rehearsal room and a lot of fun. A huge part of policing seems to be the dark humour that cops use to make the job more bearable and that's definitely made rehearsals a really jokey environment despite the serious heart of the play.
What are your top tips for anyone visiting Edinburgh during August?
Prepare for any weather!
Book stuff where you can but keep some time flexible for those last minute moments when there's a free show on in the back of a pub and you think why not?
Know that some times seeing a terrible show can be just as good for you creatively as a brilliant one - even if it's just to have a festival war story to bond over with others.
It's great to experience the sheer madness of the Royal Mile but it's not where I go for show recommendations. Word of mouth is by far my favourite way of choosing shows to see.
There's a few places you can bank on seeing something top quality, like the Traverse, the International Festival, and I always find Pleasance or Assembly venues have at least one rising-star theatre company that's worth catching while they're cutting their teeth.
Cram as much as you can in, look out for ticket deals at the half price hut and things like that, but don't let yourself feel guilty that you can't see it all or missed out on that one hot ticket show - it's just the nature of the beast!
What's next for you?
With my own company Urban Fox Theatre I'm currently developing a new site specific play about fires in tall buildings with writer Dave Fargnoli and my co-director Amy Gilmartin. We've been working on this idea for a few years now but obviously recent events in London have massively affected the direction we're taking with the work but we're hoping to stage it next year. In between now and then I'm also going to have my second child so that will keep me busy!
Jo Rush is co-artistic director of new writing company Urban Fox Theatre. Alongside her own directorial portfolio, she has worked with Utter as an Assistant Director on Bloody Trams (Traverse Theatre and Utter) and with Joe Douglas on the award-winning Death of a Salesman (Dundee Rep), and the smash-hit The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil. (Dundee Rep).
Stand By will preview at The Byre, St Andrews from 4 – 5 August, before making its Festival Fringe debut at Army@The Fringe in association with Summerhall, from 11 – 26 August. Part of the Made in Scotland Showcase 2017, tickets for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe performances can be purchased here. Stand By will announce its Autumn 2017 tour thereafter.