This Story of Yours

John Hopkins
Time and Tide Theatre Company
White Bear Theatre

William Hayes as Cartwright & Brian Merry as Johnson Credit: Lesley Cook Photography
Emma Reade-Davies as Maureen and Brian Merry as Johnson Credit: Lesley Cook Photography
David Sayers as Baxter and Brian Merry as Johnson Credit: Lesley Cook Photography

There was a time many years ago when police were portrayed in reassuring tones. They were the strong and stable safeguard against danger.

It fitted a world where the establishment dominated the media and could go about its business no matter what horrors that involved because generally people would be told that, like the officer in J B Priestley’s Inspector Calls, the police would curb abuse.

The reality was different.

Jimmy Saville held a weekly breakfast club for the police and is pictured socialising with Thatcher. The relationship of the police to abusers and the powerful has always been problematic.

John Hopkins's remarkable play This Story of Yours was written and first performed in the 1960s at a time when old certainties were breaking down. There was a growing distrust of the establishment and in particular the police who, from anti-war protests to worker’s picket lines, were demonstrating their lack of impartiality.

Hopkins's play focuses on the breakdown of Detective-Sergeant Johnson (Brian Merry) following his killing of a man he believed was a child molester. His account of this to his wife Maureen (Emma Reade-Davies) and then to a senior officer Cartwright (William Hayes) assigned to interview him is met with bewilderment and exasperation. He is violent with his wife and rough with the investigating officer, even though the latter tells him they can probably avoid charges.

Those conversations give us a sense of a man brutalised by a long line of ugly cases, who is insecure about his relationships with superiors and sexually frustrated.

The play runs to nearly three hours and, these early sections, should be trimmed of unnecessary repetition (some repetition is necessary) and padding. That would give greater impact to the final violent, unsettling section which takes us back in time to the interrogation where the suspect Kenneth Baxter (David Sayers) is killed.

That scene takes on a nightmare quality as policeman and suspect seem to mirror each other in a way that allows Johnson to discover how very much he is like the horror he is supposedly guarding us against.

The fine cast should be commended for reviving This Story of Yours. It is not a great play in its extended form, though the interrogation of Baxter has us on the edge of our seats. Importantly, it touches on a significant moment in UK social history when sections of the population were becoming disenchanted with the police, and it does so with a very unsettling reference to child abuse.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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