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A CurtainUp London Review
Roy Williams' account is balanced : the police here are neither all good or all bad but human beings that make mistakes and who have to live with the consequences of those mistakes. With Maria Aberg directing, the view of London is one of gangs of hoodies on council estates, domestic violence, rioters and in one distressing scene, policing out of control and barbaric acts from scavenging young. With James Farncombe's atmospheric darkened lighting, London looks sinister and dangerous.
Gail is nicknamed Wildefire for her fiery temperament, a reputation earned at the Police Cadet College. She joins a station of the Metropolitan Police full of enthusiasm, a breath of fresh air. Her more experienced partner is Spence (Ricky Champ) but even with experience, as police officers they find themselves dangerously isolated and alone. And under-resourced.
In trying to solve a case, Gail reveals the details of an impending operation and is caught up in corruption. Roy Williams shows how this can happen to decent people who lose sight of the probity expected in their role. This is the world of informers, the networking with criminals which draws the police into a criminal world.
Williams throws into sharp relief the sexism of the male police officers towards their female colleague. When investigating a domestic violence incident, Gail has difficulty in getting the woman to explain the truth surrounding her black eye after a neighbour heard her head being slammed against a wall by her partner. So even the victims are sometimes not willing to confide in the police.
We touch on Gail's personal life as a wife and mother with the difficulties of being married to someone outside the force. An emotive funeral has black singers singing a spiritual as we are reminded of the dangers to policemen and women.
A riot is artistically created on stage with the whole cast shaking with epileptic type tension. There is smoke and clashes, illuminated by batteries of spot lights, red lights and riot shields as police take on the hoodies.
The performances are sound, especially Lorraine Stanley's conflicted Gail who we see descend into expediency and wrong. The sets are post industrial bare iron work and blocks of side lights.
I didn't enjoy Wildefire as much as Roy Williams' other plays but acknowledge the importance of his subject matter. Wildefire makes us reflect on the distance between the public and the police force and the loss of trust.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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