Gagarin Way was described by one gushing critic as Tarantino meets Beckett, which is about as enticing as being offered ice-cream and gravy.

Who knew Gravox-coated gelati would be so palatable? Gagarin Way is a fascinating little well-made play, a convincing blend of political philosophy and theatrical violence, that’s well worth an hour-and-a-half of one’s life.

The story is simple and harrowing. Small-time Scottish crim Eddie (Jason Langley) and his anarchist mate Gary (Rob Flanagan) kidnap an American executive in order to make a political statement by murdering him.

So far so deluded, except their captive is not American, he’s Scottish, a hapless middle-management cog called Frank (Phil Scott). The unexpected return of security guard Tom (Andy Leonard) also muddies matters, as the recent university graduate (in politics, natch) finds himself engaged in a battle of ideological wits to save Frank’s life.

Gagarin Way is precisely the sort of play New Theatre can do very well: a small cast, naturalistic play, performed on a simple set with great performances.

The standout here is Jason Langley, who makes a bravura acting choice and never lets up. With slicked-back hair and emphatic, dubious opinions, Langley’s Eddie is a nasty rebel with a penchant for Big Macs, and a vicious sociopath who’s also a persuasive speaker.

Ex-boxer Rob Flanagan is perfectly cast as the na? bruiser Gary, whose eventual breakdown is unexpectedly touching. Although for many it will be difficult to accept Phil Scott playing an unfunny character, he provides solid support in the play’s most difficult role. Andy Leonard is the youngest of the group and his lack of experience shows, although there’s plenty of time yet for growth.

If there’s any major criticism, it’s that the other actors don’t seem to find Langley quite as terrifying as the audience. When they do, Gagarin Way will shift from intriguing to truly frightening.

Gagarin Way is showing at the New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown, until 11 September. Phone 9519 3403.

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