In 2008, the Metropolitan Police shut down one of its undercover units known as the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS). The individuals of the SDS were tasked with infiltrating highly dangerous activist groups and relaying useful information to prevent heinous acts of criminality such as sit ins and acoustic covers of Nick Cave songs. It emerged that these ‘spies’ were using their talents of astute khaki trouser arrangement and questionable techniques of deception for evil. Our very own Dave(y) Brasco, played by Samuel Oatley, juggles the rush of being in the field, in this case the ravishing Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, with a new duplicitous relationship, in Kefi Chadwick’s pseudo political drama.
Designer Sara Perks’ tiered staging levels imposed itself on the space and set the play up to be quite the grandiose affair. With an Escher-like understanding of the stage, Perks utilised every inch of space and succeeded in creating four independent rooms. Disappointingly, the large white screens in which the action was framed were severely misused, their only real purpose being to project outdated Getty Images of generic protests. It could be expected that the clandestine nature of the piece would warrant a range of exciting thrills. Adam P McCready certainly channelled his inner Bond when composing the score but his ostentatious overture seemed inappropriate, as the action on stage never reached the same heights.
“At times, Sissons’ robotic handling of the script results in the already strained relationship with Dave becoming somewhat of a parody”
Chadwick’s script is laden with rom-com clichés, transparent political sentiments and lacks any kind of understanding of how people in long-term relationships actually communicate. The writer was able to interview female activists who had been romantically involved with SDS officers, yet the dialogue lacks any kind of authenticity and at times descends into total farce. Director Giles Croft’s admirable attempts to breathe life into Chadwick’s sterile text can be seen in the mannerisms of revolutionist Gav, played by the talented Nicholas Karimi. Unlike Gav’s flatmate Mel (Kate Sissons), Karimi manages to convey sincere and well-balanced emotions. At times, Sissons’ robotic handling of the script results in the already strained relationship with Dave becoming somewhat of a parody. But Croft is not completely innocent in this either, failing to instruct his wedded actors that after thirteen years of marriage, couples tend to become slightly more relaxed around one another.
“It is the conflict between the two opposing narratives of his real and undercover lives, which supposedly tear Dave apart”
It is the conflict between the two opposing narratives of his real and undercover lives, which supposedly tear Dave apart and it is the same conflict that appears to plague Chadwick’s production. The writer has set out to tell a “very personal story at the heart of a political issue”, but in not fully committing to either style, has jeopardised both storylines. Like every undercover agent before him, Dave is aware that getting too close to the case is dangerous. The deeper he gets, the more his web of lies becomes harder to escape but Mel’s winsome woodenness is simply too appealing.
The broader political message sporadically peppered throughout the piece is a pressing issue. Government surveillance and covert operations should be exposed and the culprits should be held accountable. Chadwick, despite the aforementioned mishaps, has been brave to approach a topic that Scotland Yard have desperately tried to sweep under the rug.
Image credit: Robert Day via Nottingham Playhouse
‘Any Means Necessary’ is running at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 20th February. For more information see here.