John Hopkins is probably best remembered as the writer of Z Cars, a precursor to the gritty television cop dramas that are still popular today.
His first foray into theatre writing in 1968 was This Story of Yours, a dark psychological thriller that, in some respects, has aged fairly well. A huge leap on from the primetime police dramas of the 1960s, it tells the story of Detective Johnson who has beaten a suspected child-molester to death whilst in custody.
It’s not however the punches thrown on stage that shock as much as the charged dialogue and wholly committed performances. You can see the pain and dissatisfaction in Emma Reade-Davies’ Maureen long before she utters a word. Years of emotional neglect are etched in her performance and when the violence erupts, it’s almost feral in its intensity. As Johnson, Brian Merry smoulders and sways in a drunken haze, never able to consciously articulate his darkest thoughts. David Sayers’ production builds towards the flashback climax of a story we all know isn’t going to end well.
Hopkins’ play is extremely violent and while this fairly meticulous, 50th anniversary productions doesn’t use any blood or wound effects, there is some pretty convincing fight choreography directed by Toby Spearpoint. If anything the physical violence is given so much attention that it becomes almost salacious, and this ends up dating the play.
But Sayers’ concise direction maintains pace and tension and a faintly disturbing soundtrack of period pop fused with police radio broadcasts lends an eerie sense of foreboding to an already dark piece of theatre.