by Barrie Keeffe,
Young Vic and Eclipse Theatre Tour to 26 June 2010.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 May at Curve Leicester.
Gripping police drama in political context.
Originating in the Soho Poly’s cramped basement (ancestor of the sleeker Soho Theatre), set on the eve of Maggie’s 1979 Tory government, Barrie Keeffe’s police–procedural play is searingly revived in Gbolohan Obisesan’s production at what looks like being the dawn of Dave’s new Tory regime.
In 1979 the piece was a snarling prediction of what could follow the supplanting of a government concerned with social cohesion and political correctness (long before the terms were widely used) by a political force that would support the police, not only bumping-up their pay, but giving them carte blanche to use boot and fist more or less as they wished.
At least that’s the view of detective Karn as he bets on the election results coming in during the interrogation of Delroy, a Black man they believe has viciously killed his wife then calmly gone to the pub. And while Karn’s wildest dreams didn’t come true under “The Thatch”, Keeffe picked-up on the way political direction sways institutional behaviour.
For the police procedures are a festival of release as Karn moves from sarcastic welcome to intimidation, and his quiet, religious-minded subordinate Wilby exercises his silent repertoire of non-bruising kicks and punches with a menacing mix of technical proficiency and internal fury.
Though this is the main part of the action (echoing to some extent John Hopkins’ soon-to-be-revived This Story of Yours), it’s the political context that’s the theme, along with the ‘Sus’ law, which allowed police to arrest someone on suspicion of something or other having been committed, and which here lets them cover their traces.
There are three terrific performances, from Clint Dyer as the unemployed husband moving from cheeky familiarity at being stopped again by police to mental and physical agony, Laurence Spellman as the detective whose quiet manner hides internal turmoil and Simon Armstrong, who follows his outstanding portrayal of redneck Bob Ewell in Mold’s To Kill A Mockingbird with a more intelligent English version as Karn, moving between mockery, a casual surface covering resentment for years of restrictions on police behaviour, and moments of full-pelt aggression and psychologically-pointed attack.
Karn: Simon Armstrong.
Delroy: Clint Dyer.
Wilby: Laurence Spellman.
Director: Gbolohan Obisesan.
Designer: Chloe Lamford.
Lighting: Anna Watson.
Sound: Donato Wharton.
Fight director: Alison Deburg.