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Published 13 November 2014

What’s it all about?

Following interviews with police officers, Roy Williams has crafted an explosive exploration of the Metropolitan Police Force, from the people who choose to serve it to those who rally against it.

Centring on the idealistic Met newcomer Gail Wilde, in a mere 90 minutes Williams takes us on a fast-paced journey to her ultimate unravelling as dreams of serving the people are muddied in the face of rogue colleagues, senior staff who turn a blind eye to corruption within, blatant sexism and continual rejection from those she tries to help. It’s a dark, threatening journey that is less ‘good cop, bad cop’ then ‘bad cop, bad cop, good cop turned bad cop, bad cop’.

Who’s in it?

Lorraine Stanley is required to give an almost King Lear-like transformation from wide-eyed innocent to ripped apart shell of her former self, and she does so with passion and a believable simmering anger that radiates from her every pore.

It’s a compelling, heartbreaking performance supported well by a cast of bantering colleagues from Ricky Champ’s harder than nails Spence, Sharlene Whyte as his no nonsense wife Maxine and the constantly offensive Chris, played by an impish Simon Manyonda.

The performances that are unlikely to leave my mind anytime soon, however, are Tara Hodge and Sammy Hayman as a couple locked in a destructive relationship. It’s almost unbearable to watch.

What should I look out for?

Naomi Dawson’s stripped back design that provides the perfect base for free running; the production features an athletic ensemble of gang members, disaffected members of society and violent trouble makers who punch, stalk and rage their way around the stage.

In a nutshell?

Roy Williams treads the thin blue line between real life and fiction to create a dark drama that boils with aggression, threat and an almost overwhelming tension.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@bhumi_ambasna Fab eve at #Wildefire press night last night @Hamps_Theatre. Powerful play, powerful performances & v.well done to @LewisJDavidson & Azara!!

@loustar76 If you’re coming to the play expect real urban life, with swearing and everything!! Downton abbey it is not…#wildefire

Will I like it?

Williams’ fiery script provides moments of brief humour and outrageous one-liners to raise the odd smile, but generally this is an evening of uncomfortable viewing. That isn’t to say you won’t like it, quite the opposite in fact if you like your theatre hard-hitting and thought provoking. The playwright has painted a damning picture of the extreme stress the people at the centre of this vital public service are under that paves the way perfectly for the Hampstead Theatre’s next production, the revival of Nina Raine’s hospital-set Tiger Country.

If you’re looking for theatre with its finger on the pulse of some of the most pressing issues of our current social landscape, for the next two months this is the place to find it.

Wildefire is playing at Hampstead Theatre until 29 November. You can book tickets through the theatre’s website.


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