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Review: The Incident Room, at New Diorama Theatre

Gripping two-hour drama gives a deep insight into the Yorkshire Ripper manhunt

20 February, 2020 — By Lucy Bacon

Charlotte Melia in The Incident Room. Photo: Richard Davenport

THE Incident Room by Olivia Hirst and David Byrne is a forensic analysis of the Yorkshire Ripper case, famously mishandled by the police.

It begins in 1975 in Leeds, where the Millgarth incident room is the epicentre for the biggest manhunt in British police history, the search for the “Yorkshire Ripper”, as dubbed by the press, later revealed as Peter Sutcliffe.

With mounting urgency, the investigation follows several red herrings. Sergeant Megan Winterburn (Charlotte Melia) carries the weight of the case on her shoulders as we follow their misguided pursuit of the murderer.

Katy Brittain is the stand-out performance, juggling with ease the role of Sylvia Swanson, a civilian police employee in the incident room, and Maureen Long, one of the Ripper’s victims.

Hirst and Byrne’s script is intelligent, sharp, and fast-paced; their ability to condense a manhunt that took more than five years into a two-hour drama is admirable.

The set design by Patrick Connellan includes an immense backdrop of filing cabinets, reflecting the amount of data they had to sift through and the pressure on Winterburn and her team from the media and public.

The voiceovers, projection of news reports and other digital elements add to the imaginative staging by co-directors Beth Flintoff and Byrne.

The result is a gripping production that gives a deep insight into the case that broke the British police force.

Off the back of its success at the Edinburgh Festival, the show is running in London for five weeks before heading to New York.

Until March 14
020 7383 9034


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