Amongst the brightly coloured crochet throws, generic wall hangings and psychedelic background music, a tension is brewing. At first, nothing appears out of the ordinary – anyone could live here. Affectionately referred to as Julie, the main occupant however is Julian (performed by Julian Bailey-Jones) who rapidly begins to show us the many different sides to his personality, rage very closely mixed in with a concoction of love and neediness.
Julian is in his apartment with a young man (George Turner) he has spent the night with, when there is a knock on the door. He opens the door and simultaneously his past, resulting in a display of despair, hurt and confusion. It is Alan (Anthony Cord) an older man who left him in order to preserve his life with his wife and children. Cord portrays a man who is both deeply ashamed of his homosexual tendencies but also of the betrayal he has caused towards Julie. Shocked and also a little hopeful, Alan is allowed into the apartment and there the hysteria begins.
Hopkins’ work seriously hits home and speaks to anyone in a relationship – when you have experienced pain, could you and should you trust again? Julia Faulkner plays Jackie, Alan’s wife and delivers a performance that is heartbreakingly fantastic. She goes through such a range of emotions, from pleading with her husband to return home to implying that if he doesn’t, he may not have access to his children. ‘You haven’t loved me for fifteen years!’ she cries when she feels the last of her husband slip away from her. Over the course of the second half of the show, you feel as though you’re able to see into the whole of their twenty year marriage.
The Etcetera theatre in Camden worked well for this performance as you really are right there in the middle of the drama, you’re forced to analyse each move and expression. Being set in Julie’s colourful yet depressing apartment throughout the whole show is uncomfortable and stifling, a perfect portrayal of a lack of escape from a dire situation.
“Brian Merry gives a sincere impression of Johnson, a middle-aged, troubled, burned-out policeman”
Time and Tide Theatre Company present the 50th anniversary of John Hopkins’s first stage play, This Story of Yours. This harrowing three-act play charts the emotional collapse of Detective Sergeant Johnson and questions what working in law enforcement does to our souls. The play starts in a warm suburban living room filled with furniture. The setting works very well. There’s a sofa, drinks cabinet, lamp and record player, all reflecting a well put together middle-class household.
A living room is typically the place where a couple would assemble for the night and maybe listen to an old record, Johnson and Maureen don’t even get to finish one whole song before an argument ensues.
Actor Brian Merry gives a sincere impression of Johnson, a middle-aged, troubled, burned-out policeman. Having been exposed to sights of death and destruction for twenty years on the force, Johnson is on the edge of madness. Merry takes extraordinary care in considering every detail and gesture, from Johnson’s nervous ticks and twitches to his sudden bursts of energy. Emma Reade-Davies, who understated and so beautifully natural in her portrayal of Maureen, presents a wife worried her husband is hiding something from her.
During their toxic encounter it’s revealed that earlier on that night Johnson interviewed Baxter (David Sayers), a man suspected of abducting and murdering a young girl. Baxter got beneath Johnson’s skin and it ultimately ended in a brawl. Soon after confessing to his wife, Johnson is grilled by Chief Inspector Cartwright (William Hayes) who enters swaggering with a cigar ready to light. The stage opens up and the lights dim giving the impression of an interrogation cell, except there’s no need for a bright lamp to be focused on Johnson. He’s already frightened. After a few questions Cartwright, like Maureen, becomes alarmed by Johnson’s erratic and unstable behaviour.
The piece concludes with Act Three, a flashback of the incident, where the audience actually get to see what happened and the parallels between Johnson and Baxter. Is Johnson a man with sadistic impulses or was he at the end of his tether?
In all three acts, the pressures exerted on Johnson lead to violent outbursts of aggression. The fights staged by Toby Spearpoint, although authentic, leave the audience impatient rather than reeling in horror. Not much is left to our imagination. However, it should be said all the cast give starkly naturalistic and well-sustained performances.