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Sus - as relevant now as 1979

Stop-and-search drama revived and on tour in Liverpool

Published on October 13th 2014.

Sus - as relevant now as 1979

THIRTY-five years ago, a large sector of British society was politically charged and active.

By active, that did not mean tut-tutting over a copy of Chavs while waiting for the Ocado delivery, nor spending Thursday nights swanking around on Twitter, posting  #BBCQT hashtags every time Russell Brand opened his gob.

Back then it was about feet, voices and ideas, united class struggles. If people of every background weren't out manning the lines at Greenham Common or rallying in their hundreds of thousands for the right to work, they were frequently watching and making political theatre in pubs and clubs. Happy-angry days.

Whole companies were set up with this very mandate at heart, like 7.84 and Red Ladder, and they made thought-provoking dramas like Sus, revived this week in Liverpool.

Set on Election Night, 1979, Sus is a play about what happens when police powers go unchecked. It centres on the interrogation of Leon Delroy, a young black man, in the aftermath of a woman’s suspicious death. With the incoming Thatcher government set to bring a ‘New Dawn’ of hard-line law enforcement, Karn and Wilby - Delroy’s interrogators – sense a golden opportunity to make names for themselves; all they have to do is get the first murder confession of the new regime. Whatever it takes.

The play written by Barrie Keeffe (who also wrote The Long Good Friday), received critical attention at the time for its depiction of police harassment under the controversial 'Suspicious person’ (‘sus’) laws which enabled police to detain and interrogate people without evidence that they had been involved in any criminal activity."

But did it change anything? Thirty five years on, black people are still seven times more likely to be stopped by the police than white people, with only about one in 10 of those stops leading to an arrest.

Or as producer Ed Barratt points out, despite the age of the play, very little has needed to be updated "unfortunately". 

He told Liverpool Confidential: "Numbers are hard to come by; but with the largely spurious linking of the new stop and search powers to terrorism, there may well be more young black men being stopped and searched now than ever before. Even the Home Secretary has admitted that 250,000 street searches were carried out illegally last year."

Sus Press2

He added: "The play is 35 years old, and I can't find figures going back that far; but the annual number of black and ethnic minority deaths in police custody or through other contact with the police has remained fairly constant in the last 25 years, with over 130 deaths occurring in that time."

Sus is to be staged by the emerging Liverpool-based Enthusiastic Theatre Company, supported by the Arts Council and METAL, for whom this represents their first fully-professional production.

The cast of the three-hander sees Delroy being played by Nolan Frederick, Wilby by Nigel Peever and Liverpool’s very own Alan Stocks as Kam.

Sus tour dates

The below five performances commence at 8pm, at The Black-E, 1 Great George Street, Liverpool, L1 5EW              

Mon 13 Oct (cut-price preview – tickets £7 / £5)

Tue 14 Oct (tickets £10 / £8)

Sat 18 Oct (tickets £10 / £8)

Mon 20 Oct (tickets £10 / £8)

Tue 21 Oct (tickets £10 / £8)

The two perfomances below are aimed specifically at those for whom a £10 theatre ticket might simply be out of reach, and commence at 8pm, at The Casa, 29 Hope Street, Liverpool, L1 9BQ.

Fri 17 Oct (tickets £4 / £3 / £2)

Fri 24 Oct (tickets £4 / £3 / £2)

All tickets available from The Unity Theatre Box Office, 1 Hope Place, Liverpool L1 9BG Box-office: 0151 709 4988 / 0844 873 2888 / www.unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk

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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

John BradleyOctober 13th 2014.

Sounds like a golden age of theatre and political awareness, in reality it was 99% made up of Riks from the young ones. This however is part of the 1%.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 13th 2014.

Unfortunately it satirised itself so much that nobody could take it seriously any more. But at least you are listening

John StalkerOctober 13th 2014.

Not a golden age of theatre at all, John. It doesn't say that. However such things were a small part of a much wider social and political responsibility of the time. Who is actively engaged with these processes now?

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyOctober 13th 2014.

Lots where as engaged in the process till being a New Romantic became the best way to get laid.

AnonymousOctober 13th 2014.

People protest less now because times are not as hard and standards of living are better. There has been a lot of progress in 35 years.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
DWP PenuryOctober 13th 2014.

Are you having a laugh?

AnonymousOctober 14th 2014.


AnonymousOctober 14th 2014.

Ho ho

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