Tag Archives: Katy Brittain

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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Review of The Dark Room – 5 Stars


The Dark Room

Theatre 503

Reviewed – 13th November 2017


“raises issues that are still prevalent today and are much closer to home”


There’s something sinister about quiet, shabby motel rooms. Something lonely, something that’s not quite right. They are the sort of places you may end up in when there are no options left. Angela Betzien’s work left me utterly heartbroken, her interweaving storylines reuniting to form a completely tragic story.

We meet three sets of characters: troubled, erratic and suicidal young Grace and her carer Anni, policeman Stephen with his pregnant wife Emma and lastly Stephen’s boss Craig who is joined by Joseph, a young man in a wedding dress. The production cleverly transitions between one group of characters and the next, never leaving the motel room. From the word go, everything moves very fast.

During the opening scene we are left desperately guessing why the young woman in front of us insists on wearing a bag over her head, yelling at her companion – and why does she hide a kitchen knife under the mattress? Has she been abducted? Is she safe?

Annabel Smith (Grace) truly encapsulates a young woman with many, many demons and a lot of internal suffering. From her emotional bitterness to her physical violence, Grace’s character is unpredictable and at times very frightening. Smith fills the audience with unease, we really don’t know where her mood will take us next.

Both Stephen (Tamlyn Henderson) and Craig (Alasdair Craig) move about the stage in a guilty, secretive bubble of awkwardness. Which one of them has done something unspeakable? Perhaps the ghost of the young man in the wedding dress has something to do with it.

The eerie lighting (Will Monks) added a touch of horror – I have lost count of the amount of scary movies that take place in similar hotels – and during the scenes where we are plunged into darkness, we can only speculate as to what awaits when the lights come up.

With a pleasingly shabby motel set by Jemima Robinson and smooth direction from Audrey Sheffield, The Dark Room is a thrilling eye-opener. It may be based on Australia’s shadowy history of ill treatment of its own society’s most vulnerable, but it raises issues that are still prevalent today and are much closer to home .

Reviewed by Stephanie Legg

Photography by Alex Brenner




is at Theatre 503 until 2nd December



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