This Story of Yours by John Hopkins
The White Bear, 138 Kennington Park Rd, quick walk from Kennington Tube Station until January 27th
Runs 2 hr 50 including a 20 minute interval
Veronica Stein, January 12th, 2017
Ambitious then, formidable now – and vice versa
Walking into the theatre above the White Bear Pub in Kennington, one is struck immediately by the unhinged atmosphere in the room: Johnson, a policeman who is clearly exhausted sits on his sofa with a tumbler of whiskey, waiting. Johnson, portrayed by Brian Merry, seems to probably reek of alcohol should we get closer to him. Little do we know the storm we are about to enter. Johnson has, prior to the play’s beginning, potentially beat a man to death during an interrogation, but can’t quite explain what has happened to anyone- not his wife, not his superior, and most troublingly, himself. He is disturbed, not only by what he’s seen in his line of work over two decades, but also the thoughts he’s accumulated.
Time and Tide Theatre Company has embarked on a formidable task in mounting this 50th anniversary production, not in the least because of the writing. Despite compelling characters and thoughtful introspection, the play runs very long and tends to go in circles. In its three symbolic acts of Johnson’s interaction with his neglected wife, his superior, and his victim, we tend to come to the conclusion (his motivation) long before the play does.
Emma Reade-Davies as Maureen (Johnson’s wife) is a strong actress who is convincing in her desperation to help her husband, but doesn’t get to truly shine except for the few moments that husband and wife actually get to look at eachother. William Hayes commands the stage with both specificity and presence as Johnson’s harsh but decent superior, and though his scene with Johnson is perhaps the most unnecessary to the plot it is for the better that we see his performance. Brian Merry portrays Johnson with many fantastic moments (especially in his drunken rage and the play’s conclusion), but overall struggles to color the performance due to the overall repetitive dialogue. David Sayers, who also directs the production, is perhaps the most brilliant player of the night. In his fear and his psychological manipulation, he manages to be pitiable, fascinating, and somehow a contender in the long mind-game between him and Johnson despite his victimhood. Their violent climax is wonderfully choreographed by Toby Spearpoint, along with the rest of the combat in the play, which moves things along and is chilling in its bluntness. The second act in general is the finest work of the evening, as the actors are finally allowed by the text to truly exchange.
As John Hopkins’ first play after the success of his seminal work, ‘Z-Cars’, This Story of Yours was ambitious for its time with regards to its content of police brutality and mental health issues. Despite the length and issues of monotony, there are several moments of brilliance in this revival production.
Johnson: Brian Merry
Maureen: Emma Reade- Davies
Cartwright: William Hayes
Baxter: David Sayers
Director: David Sayers
Producers: Emma Reade-Davies & David Sayers
Associate Producers: Romy Bellamy, Irvine Naqvi, Ann Roberts, Keith, Pauline Sayers
Fight Choreography: Toby Spearpoint