Tag Archives: Beth Flintoff

The Incident Room


New Diorama Theatre

The Incident Room

New Diorama Theatre

Reviewed – 13th February 2020



“a sleek, high-value production that prods the audience to ask for their own response to institutionalised problems”


It’s 1974. The UK murder detection rate stands at over 90%; the equal pay act is shortly to come into force and Peter Sutcliffe is about to begin his reign of terror on West Yorkshire women. Olivia Hirst and David Byrne’s new play, The Incident Room, comes down from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe  to explore the true story of Britain’s largest ever manhunt and highlight the institutional sexism and incompetence that dogged the West Yorkshire force undertaking it.

The events unfold in Millgarth Incident Room in Leeds between 1977 and 1981. Running the room is Megan Winterburn (Charlotte Melia) – a smart, thirty-something sergeant who is continually overlooked for promotion in favour of the affable yet inept Andrew Laptew (Jamie Samuel). All the while the two men calling the shots – Dick Holland (Ben Eagle) and the increasingly frayed George Oldfield (Colin R Campbell) – resort to ever more audacious means to catch the killer.

Co-directors Beth Flintoff and David Byrne orchestrate the cast brilliantly with slick movement and moments of tense conflict while building the freneticism of the hunt. Campbell provides a particularly strong performance as the crumbling man at the helm. The floor to ceiling filing cabinets and faithful recreation of a 1970s office in Patrick Connellan’s set provide the claustrophobic atmosphere of those who toiled there whilst alluding to one of the key narratives that emerged from this case. Zakk Hein’s digital design is equally impressive – using sweeping shadows to show time’s passage; and archival footage of the real hunt to remind us that we are witnessing a re-enactment of real-life events.

The incompetence of the West Yorkshire police in failing to apprehend the Yorkshire Ripper (who was interviewed on nine separate occasions) is well documented. However, what Hirst and Byrne uncovered while exploring this story is the more pressing issue of institutional sexism. Their script subtly reveals how each character is complicit in its maintenance. From the old-boy’s-club thinking of George Oldfield – ‘when you’re doing my job, you’re always looking for men you can trust’, to the shrugging complacency of the men who do nothing and finally the strange mix of weariness and guilt of Megan Winterburn – who wonders whether it is her responsibility to fight for more.

The Incident Room is a lovingly researched play that uncovers the many real-life issues that arose while chasing the most infamous killer in British policing history. It’s verbatim theatre told in a sleek, high-value production that prods the audience to ask for their own response to institutionalised problems. Go and see it for an engrossing two hours.

Reviewed by Euan Vincent

Photography by The Other Richard


The Incident Room

 New Diorama Theatre until 14th March


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The War Of The Worlds | ★★★½ | January 2019
Operation Mincemeat | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Art Heist | ★★★½ | October 2019
Joan Of Leeds | ★★★★ | December 2019
Antigone | ★★★★★ | January 2020


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The Rivals – 5 Stars


The Rivals

Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd March 2018


“A feast of high-blown cod grandiloquence is delivered with crisp authority”


“Love. Zounds!” Newbury’s delightfully cosy Watermill Theatre has a sparkling hit on its hands in an adaptation of Sheridan’s The Rivals. First performed in 1775, and written in a desperate rush to finance a life lived beyond his means, the play satirises the lives of the well-to-do in the hotbed of intrigue that was Georgian Bath.

The twisting path to true love, with all its deceptions and vanities, is brought to life with real zest by a strong ensemble, directed by Jonathan Humphreys. The piece has been shortened and sharpened by its adaptor Beth Flintoff, complete with a re-written prologue and epilogue. The first compares the hot stories of today with Sheridan’s time, and the second keeps the focus on the women and the way love really does make the world go round.

James Cotterrill’s design features a period-looking thrust stage and a ravishing cascade of high kitsch drapes, in a riot of pink and purple frills and furbelows that neatly parodies the pretensions of the characters on the otherwise empty stage. This is a play of words, not deeds. A feast of high-blown cod grandiloquence is delivered with crisp authority by a talented cast.

Some of the best lines are spoken by the eponymous Mrs Malaprop, played with a wicked sense of fun by Julia St John. Her niece is memorably ‘as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile’. The malapropisms are sometimes new (I don’t think Sheridan knew about the calamari which Mrs Malaprop substitutes for a calamity) and they come so thick and fast you’ve hardly time to work out what she really meant to say before another rib-tickler comes along.

Michael Thomas plays Sir Anthony Absolute with a delightfully pugnacious swagger. Ncuti Gatwa is his son Captain Jack, the focus of a web of love complications that had the audience in stitches. His delivery, animated expression and movement (directed by Simon Pittman) wittily evoked the character of the silver-tongued dandy at the centre of the play.

His love is Lydia Languish (recent RADA graduate Emma Denly). She’s far from being a complete air-headed flibbertigibbet, in an interpretation that like Charlotte Bate’s satisfying portrayal of Julia that was as much about empowering the women as it was about reducing them to mere figures of fun.

As Faulkland, James Mack gave an engaging performance as a daft buffoon whose love always comes with a ‘but..’. Christopher Logan has some great comic moments in best stage Irish as Sir Lucius O’Trigger in a role that got Dublin-born Sheridan into trouble at the play’s premiere.

Daniel Abelson completes the versatile cast of eight as Bob Acres. He plays the role in a lusciously broad Bristollian accent that perfectly suits his booby of a character. Other characters are also played with versatility by the cast, so much so in fact that there seemed to be actors missing at the enthusiastic curtain call that concluded tonight’s performance.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Philip Tull


The Rivals

Watermill Theatre until 21st April


Teddy | ★★★★★ | The Watermill Theatre | January 2018


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