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The Theatreguide.London Review

This Story Of Yours
Old Red Lion Theatre      Spring 2010

John Hopkins' play (best known in its 1973 film version The Offence) is a classic study of a man in extremis, a veteran police officer so close to the edge of collapse that he can't be sure of the borders between the horrible crime at hand and the thousands he's dealt with before, between his rage at the world that allows such things to happen and his resentment at an empty marriage and a dead-end career, and ultimately between himself and the suspect before him.

It is clearly meant to be a harrowing experience for the audience, but it is such a difficult challenge to any director and actors that it is no great condemnation of this small fringe production that it can only hint at the play's intentions.

The cop in question has just beaten the suspect in a series of child rapes and murders, and we first see him at home as he awaits word on whether the man has died. He and his wife discover painfully how very far from each other they have wandered, so that she can be of no help to him in this crisis.

We then watch him being debriefed by a senior officer, in a scene that puts him at the receiving end of the interrogation process, and then finally flash back to the deadly encounter with the prisoner.

In every situation, except perhaps for the first half of the final scene, when he is confidently exercising his skill as interrogator, the cop is very close to the end of his tether and doubly frustrated and paralysed by the inability to communicate his feelings.

His wife, not being a cop, can't understand. The other cop should be able to, but his own self-protective emotional armour is too thick.

Ironically, it is the prisoner with whom he feels the most chance of being open, but that means handing him the power as well, and that's unthinkable.

But if I tell you that everything I've just explained has to be understood intellectually in this production directed by Anthony Biggs, you'll understand its honourable failure - far too little of the central emotional experience is conveyed for us to feel.

The role of the cop is an extraordinarily difficult one, since all we see are his extremes of emotion, with very little from which the actor can generate a sense of the man's core.

So it is understandable if regrettable that Mark Rose's performance too often seems external and studied, the actor only achieving a sense of naturalness and reality in the early part of the last scene.

The other three figures - wife, officer and suspect - are written less as fully developed characters than as structural devices, feeds to cue the cop's responses and cardboard figures for him to bounce off.

Sally Grey, Edmund Dehn and Mark Sands serve the play as well as the script allows them, without being able to contribute much more than that.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of This Story Of Yours  - Old Red Lion Theatre 2010


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