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Stop Search

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Dominic Taylor’s new play interweaves the lives of two families, one white and one black, in an episodic jigsaw that depicts a stop and search encounter gone tragically wrong. The production aims to explore how this event affects the lives of all those concerned.

As the play opens Ivan, a black man, played with great subtlety and intensity by Valentine Hanson, is being questioned by a police officer about the car he is driving and the three credit cards in his possession that bear different names. We then switch to a pub where Dianne, a black woman, and a white couple are waiting. They get chatting and we soon learn that the couple are waiting for their son Gregg, a young police officer.

It transpires that Dianne’s husband is Ivan, who relates his tale of his stop and search to his wife and Gregg’s parents. In response, the mother, Anne, beautifully played by Caroline Guthrie, praises Ivan for his patience and conduct, revealing an underlying attitude of trepidation towards the black community.

Having established the two families, the drama begins to unfold when Ivan receives a phone call from his daughter, informing him that his teenage son Callie is missing. We soon learn that he too has been stopped and arrested by Gregg, in a performance suitably nervous and uptight by Jack Shalloo, and another cop and things have gone awry.

The play is an examination of the police and their powers to stop and search and addresses a number of themes including targets, roles, and attitudes. It's the way these themes are dealt with that turns it into a somewhat preachy political piece, with the audience addressed directly at times by the major characters in turn, to present facts and figures from all sides. Renee Castle as Dianne, a high level social worker, is left with the last words, “Black children must be stopped and searched, is that how it is?”

Directed by Thierry Harcourt, the piece uses the space and simple props well and the addition of an atmospheric drum and bass score by Daniel Adeyemi and Mister Manga helps create the right mood. Despite the production's many strengths, not all the scenes are immediately easy to place in context, and there are times when one feel this would have made a more suitable radio play.

- Dave Jordan


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