Turn of the screw

Theatre Review: Any Means Necessary

12 February 16 words: Bridie Squires
We went to see the play exploring the relationship between undercover police officers, their targets, wives and bosses, written by Kefi Chadwick and directed by Nottingham Playhouse Artistic Director Giles Croft
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A while ago, I saw a documentary on Channel 4 about an undercover police officer scandal at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, where Mark Kennedy (aka Mark Stone, when undercover) revealed all about his years of infiltrating environmental activists. I must admit, part of me felt a bit sorry for him having his life torn apart like that, not knowing the difference between reality and his own lies, and being abandoned by the police.

When I recently started reading about the large amounts of spycops that’ve entered into relationships with women in similar groups, and the swathes of trauma that ensued, most of that sympathy disappeared. Playwright Kefi Chadwick’s curiosity was spurred by the stories, so she ended up writing a play exploring the subject, directed by Nottingham Playhouse’s Artistic Director Giles Croft.

Any Means Necessary draws from the experiences of many women who have suffered at the hands of undercover coppers’ fake love, to create a fictionalised story exploring the issue and recreating what happened to these women. We see many different places and scenes throughout the play – all beautifully lit and delicately laced with sound in a way that transforms empty spaces from court settings, to cafes, to graveyards.

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The set is cool – futuristic glowing lighting lines four platforms, all tiered in different positions and accessed by stairs, so we really get a feel of different environments. We begin on the ground, in the living room of two environmental activist friends – Gav (Nicholas Karimi) and Mel (Kate Sissons). Gav’s character is expertly played, and really funny – providing some light relief to serious issues and that lingering feeling of impending doom.

The story continues with the entrance of Dave (Samuel Oatley) who quickly penetrates the friendship circle with charm and confidence. With an entertaining and natural script (sensitive ears, be warned), he’s a character we quickly warm to as the group head off on protests together. There were moments the story was a bit tangential, but also necessary to illustrate the full, realistic picture during the time a spycop would be undercover. For example, we see a funny argument scene between Mel and her sister, which seems to go a bit off-piste, but we are eventually pulled back in to the fact that Dave is so supportive and loving in moments that leave Mel feeling vulnerable. It is complete manipulation.

A particularly intriguing dynamic was the one between Dave and his undercover copper boss, or handler, Jimmy (again, Nicolas Karimi). The impressively played, vastly different roles of Karimi and his ability to flit between Scottish and London accents meant we were left baffled that he was even the same actor. When these scenes dropped, it was on the powerful top level of the stage, and we saw both a professional and friendly relationship develop between the two – falsely reassuring and brutal.

We see the highs and the lows of the different stages Dave goes through as an undercover copper, but also those of Mel as we discover how the police’s moves can destroy someone’s trust. That being said, this play is not about poor, helpless women. This play highlights the power of people who stand together and fight for causes they believe in, even in the face of seemingly hopeless times. An incredibly moving and thought-provoking production with twists that spin the merry-go-round of these devastating cases of betrayal.

Any Means Necessary runs at Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 20 February.

Nottingham Playhouse website

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