Tag Archives: Jamie Samuel

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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Left my Desk – 4 Stars


Left my Desk

New Diorama Theatre

Reviewed – 31st May 2018


“an important piece of theatre which shines a light on a complicated issue”


Produced by the award-winning theatre company Lost Watch, Left My Desk tells the story of Children’s Services social worker, Becca (played by Rianna Dearden) and her struggle to do her job amidst budget cuts, tough cases, and personal sorrows.

The acting overall is of a very high standard, but Adam Langstaff and Rachel Hosker, who both play a variety of characters, from a tough policeman to a young mother with an addiction problem, are the standouts. They switch superbly through their various personas and are highly believable and enjoyable to watch.

The storyline is gripping and gives us a taste of Becca’s personal life and work life, which at times seem to blur into one. There is a lot that is left unresolved and large time jumps, which are sometimes unclear, but this seems to reflect Becca’s job itself as in social work most cases are not tied up neatly with a bow. There are a few cheesy lines that could have been avoided, but overall the plot is fast paced, exciting, and engaging, and clearly shows the breakdown of Becca’s mental health as she strives to do her best at her job. The piece certainly succeeds at pulling you in completely to this world of domestic violence, budget cuts, and class divides, and you can’t help but be affected by the cases Becca has to deal with and impact austerity has had on social work.

The set consists of three white desks and three white rectangular frames on wheels, each with a clear plastic sheet across them. These frames work as office windows, hospital hallways and French windows, and have a lovely reflection effect. They are flexible and work well to illustrate the play’s many locations but also keep the cold, clinical feeling which seems to mirror the way the institution of social work can sometimes feel. As Becca says, “An organisation doesn’t make a great parent.”

The lighting and sound design are excellent and add to the tense mood of the play. The lighting design (Hector Murray) is particularly ingenious in one scene where Becca and her partner, Phil (Jamie Samuel), are driving at night. The scene is the emotional climax of the play and the lights cleverly imitate driving on a motorway at night. Fergus Waldron’s sound design is also very well done, in particular the use of low tones and sound effects underpinning scenes and setting the location (e.g the quiet hum of traffic or the sounds of an office). It’s these small design touches which really lift the piece and bring it all together.

Overall, Left My Desk is an important piece of theatre which shines a light on a complicated issue and tells it from the perspective of those who are on the ground and working in the field. It’s a well-designed, heartfelt, and thought-provoking show and absolutely worth a watch.


Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

Photography by Scott Rylander


Left my Desk

New Diorama Theatre until 16th June


Previously reviewed at this venue
It Made me Consider | ★★★ | February 2018
Close Up | ★★★ | February 2018
Trap Street | ★★★★ | March 2018


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