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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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A Midsummer Night’s Dream – 3.5 Stars


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 27th June 2018


“as the physical theatre of the misfiring affections became a bawdy, raucous spectacle the audience is utterly won over”


With lighting rigs exposed, no scenery but a looming fabric moon overhead, the stripped back stage at Wilton’s Music Hall provides the perfect setting for The Faction’s stripped back Midsummer Night’s Dream. Disposing of the customary prettiness, director Mark Leipacher aims to expose new textual truths within the play, namely that the war-ravaged Athenians of the period would have been willingly distracted by the aristocratic nuptials of the plot, just as (he claims) we’re happily diverted by Royal events in the midst of looming climate change.

So it is that the four young lovers are drawn into the Athenian woods to be engulfed by the magic and mayhem of fairies and artisan players, similarly attracted to promised festivities. With only the bare text, everyday clothes, a few accents and their own physicality (great credit here to The Faction’s movement director, Richard James Neale) the ensemble take on the characters’ conflicting desires. Demetrius (Christopher York) expects to marry Hermia (Lowri Izzard), who prefers Lysander (Jeremy Ang Jones) while Helena (Laura Evelyn) pursues Demetrius. With the introduction of Oberon’s magical herbs, desires turn upside down with the Fairy Queen Titania lusting after an oafishly braying Bottom (Christopher Hughes) and Helena is distressed to find herself now pursued by both Lysander and Demetrius.

For such a complex plot, the idea of stripping back to the bare text is an interesting one, it unveils the darker side of the play as, divested of finery, the actions seem more lustful and even boorish, perhaps a truer reflection of many romantic experiences. The movement is brilliant in places, creating scene and mood through background dance, replacing the traditional entrances and exits. However, the most important motif in the play is contrast, something this production didn’t really have, at least between the groups of characters. Men wore floral shirts, but aside from that the cast wore much the same as the audience. If Egeus can become Puck through the simple application of a backwards baseball cap, something similar could have helped others.

Sound and lighting design (Yaiza Varona and Ben Jacobs) strain hard to guide the audience through the changes and good use is made of Wilton’s split level stage to delineate roles. There are also some fascinating interpretations from the cast. Lowri Izzard is crystal clear vocally but also in her characterisations of Hermia, Starveling and Cobweb. Linda Marlowe’s degenerate Puck is ingenious, malevolent, yet likeable against the odds. In any case, by the second half, as the physical theatre of the misfiring affections became a bawdy, raucous spectacle the audience is utterly won over. Whether it was The Faction, the Music Hall or the comedy itself that does the winning, it hardly matters.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by The Other Richard


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Wilton’s Music Hall until 30th June


Previously reviewed productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
★★★ | Rose Playhouse | August 2017
★★ | Theatro Technis | April 2018
★★★★ | Watermill Theatre | May 2018


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