Set on the eve of Thatcher’s landslide victory in 1979, Barrie Keeffe’s play about a young Black man detained and brutalised by the police for a crime he has no knowledge of is a powerful dramatisation of a true story. Dilated Theatre Company staged the play in 2013 at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, and return to the show for a timely revival. We speak to director Paul Tomlinson before the show opens at Park Theatre.
What is SUS about?
SUS is a true story. Set on the election night of Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 landslide victory, Delroy, a young black father, is brought into an East London Police Station on what he thinks is SUS – suspect under suspicion – the law now commonly known as Stop and Search. Unbeknownst to him, Karn and Wilby, two very prejudiced white male police detectives, are tasked with drawing a confession from him for an unspeakable crime and go about it in the most brutal of ways. As the election results come in, Karn, the older of the two, is elated at the prospect of Thatcher as Prime Minister and the ‘new dawn’ this will herald. Meanwhile Delroy is subjected to the abuse and horrors of an institution oozing with racism, misogyny, corruption and brutal violence. Keeffe’s timeless play will have you questioning innocence and guilt, the nature of power and the intents of those who wield it; over forty years on you’ll be left asking: has anything really changed?
You directed the show in 2013, why return to it?
Dilated Theatre’s inaugural production ran at the Lion and Unicorn in March of 2013 to rave reviews. Nearly ten years on, we are reviving SUS at a time when it couldn’t be more pertinent. Barrie Keeffe thought the show would be a one off and quickly forgotten. This was not the case and although the name has changed SUS is unfortunately still very much in use and disproportional used against ethnic minority communities.
What was your relationship with Barrie Keeffe?
I first met Barrie shortly after his enormous success with his film The Long Good Friday. I was directing his play Frozen Assets and he asked if he could come to a rehearsal and bring the American Director who was about to direct it in New York. He came, was extremely pleasant to all the Company, and liked what we were doing. He continued coming and we became good friends. I have done a number of productions of his plays since then and spent two holidays with him and his wife in Italy.
What will the experience for the audience be?
The audience should become deeply involved in the story and be deeply affected by what happens.
What’s next for you?
I have a number of projects in the pipeline.
SUS is taking place at Park Theatre between the 21 September – 15 October. More information on how to book tickets here: https://parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/sus