To me, COPS, set in 1950s Chicago, comes across as so authentically period that it feels like it must be a finely minted revival. But it’s not: it’s a new play. Even more surprising then that it’s written by an author I’d never heard of before.
So what a pleasure to be invited to not only chair a post-show discussion with the COPS company but to do so on the play’s official opening night: truly a world-premiere Q&A.
It’s Chicago in 1957. Four cops, of different ages, classes and races, all suspicious of each other, must grab a gangster turned state witness before the Mob can get him.
Outside their office, the world is changing. The Civil Rights movement. Race riots. Mass consumerism. Rock ‘n’ Roll. Elvis has arrived. Sex is everywhere.
To discuss the ‘discovery’ of American-born retiree playwright Tony Tortora, the development of the play, the world of the play – including the very delicate problem of how to display the racism (and perceived lack of resistance) of the 1950s – I was joined by director and producer Andy Jordan, cast members Daniel Francis, James Sobol Kelly, Roger Alborough and Jack Flammiger (making his professional debut), and assistant director Tim Trimingham-Lee.
For both director and cast, a key attraction to doing COPS was the fact that it’s an “actor’s play”, which prompted a great debate about what exactly that term means, and why, there aren’t many new plays being written that qualify as such.
Please watch and share the full post-show discussion – and be sure to catch the premiere production before its strictly limited season ends at London’s Southwark Playhouse on 1 February 2020.
Event photography by Peter Jones.