ANY MEANS NECESSARY: Kefi Chadwick.
Nottingham Playhouse, to 20 Feb.
Runs: 2h 40m: one interval: till 20th February.
Performance times: 7.45pm (matinees Thurs 1.30pm and Sats 2.30pm),
Review: Alan Geary: 9th February 2016.
Fictionalised account of real-life scandal. Absorbing.
In 2009 an attempt by a Nottingham-based environmental protest group to break into a nearby power station was foiled by police action. The Guardian subsequently revealed that one of the leading activists had in fact been a long-term undercover police informer working for the Met – and in the process getting heavily involved with a female protester.
The play is a fictionalised account of what became a scandal of national significance.
The first half doesn’t properly engage. It presents the main point of what seems a straightforward, issue-driven piece; the characters don’t emerge as people we care about. But post-interval things improve. The psychological and emotional effects on all involved, villains as well as protesters are scrutinised. They become real, suffering individuals.
This is about profound betrayal at all levels: police officers as well as activists are victims.
The second half also has the most compelling scenes; for instance the one where the informer’s cover starts to slip, and those where we witness his disintegrating real home-life.
Kefi Chadwick’s text is excellent, save for the unrealistically literary alliteration she occasionally gets Mel, her central character, to come out with.
Director Giles Croft draws out fine performances from seven actors playing eleven parts. Mel is especially well done by Kate Sissons, who’s nicely contrasted with Abby, her conformist sister (Jo Dockery). Samuel Oatley is excellent as Dave, the undercover policeman. Nicholas Karimi is completely convincing in two roles: Gavin, the likeable Glaswegian protester genuinely in love with Mel and jealous of Dave; and Jimmy, Dave’s washed out line manager at the Met, a dedicated enemy of democracy.
It all happens on an efficient multi-locational set arranged on four levels for ease of scene changing. They also, perhaps, symbolise compartmentalised lives, as well as looking like giant laptops.
Small wonder that the press-night audience was gripped by this play. Anyone hoping for a one-sided evening of left-wing agitprop would have trudged home disappointed: it’s more complex and interesting than that. And it even manages to end on a guardedly optimistic note.
Bev/Carol: Beatrice Comins.
Abby/Cara: Jo Dockery.
Gav/Jimmy: Nicholas Karimi.
Karen: Lily Lowe-Myers.
Emma/Leane: Louise Mai Newberry.
Dave: Samuel Oatley.
Mel: Kate Sissons.
Director: Giles Croft.
Designer: Sara Perks.
Lighting Designer: Chris Davey.
Composer/Sound Designer: Adam P McCready.