Tuesday, September 26

The Incident Room returns to Royal Court Studio

Following a sell-out run at The Black-E, Old Fruit Jar Productions return to the Studio at Liverpool Royal Court, after their sell-out run of Twelfth Night, to present a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of a pivotal moment in British history.

Exploring the wider issues of misogyny and institutional negligence that surrounded the case, Olivia Hirst and David Byrne’s beautifully crafted The Incident Room is an intense and thought-provoking look into the police investigation into the crimes of the Yorkshire Ripper.

Set in Leeds 1975, the focus of the play is centred in and around the Millgarth Incident Room as the biggest manhunt in British police history unfolds. Whilst based on this gripping true story, the focus of the play is on the police officers at the forefront of what became a five-year investigation and their often desperate and ill-thought through attempts to end this reign of terror.

Although set over forty years ago, the obvious parallels to recent issues in British policing resonated strongly with audiences first time round because, as director Alex Carr notes, history continues to repeat itself and more miscarriages of justice and abuse are lurking around the corner. Whilst this is a play about the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, it highlights the organisational chaos that saw repeated opportunities to arrest the culprit to be missed, as the Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, George Oldfield (Luke Seddon), blunders from one mistake to another, with the assistance of Deputy Senior Investigating Officer Dick Holland (Josh Ennis). Throw in a little cross-Pennine rivalry with Jack Ridgway (Anthony Roberts) of Manchester CID and it’s a case with disaster written all over it.

Drawing upon real transcripts, we also gain valuable insight into the misogyny at the heart of British policing, then and now, which Detective Sergeant Megan Winterburn (Florence King) and WPO Sylvia Swanson (Ciara O’Neill) have to battle against, including being overlooked for promotion in favour of one of the lads, PO Andy Laptew (Jordan Barkley). This is further evidenced by the treatment of one of the victims, Maureen Long (Rachel McGrath), and highlighted as a wider societal problem with the continued presence of journalist Tish Morgan (Christina Rose).

It’s an eye-opening spectacle with implications that the cast have had to come to terms with outside of the rehearsal space too, none more so than the continued poor treatment of women to this day by not only men but also, far too often, other women, and which serves to remind us that if we want to change things for the better, then we have to face up to the realities of life and not hide behind painted smiling faces. Or as Seddon more eloquently put it to me: shying away from the dark doesn’t make it light.

So, come and be inspired to make that difference, and even if you saw this thought-provoking and five-star rated production earlier in the year, it’s well worth a re-visit with a hidden surprise or two in store for its latest run in a different venue.

The Incident Room performs at Liverpool’s Royal Court Studio from 10th to 21st October at 7.30pm with further matinee performances on Saturday 14th and Saturday 21st at 1.30pm. Tickets are priced at £13 and available via https://liverpoolsroyalcourt.com/whats-on/the-incident-room/