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Sus at the Young Vic

Alice Dickerson

If you're after raw, intense, stripped-back acting, Sus delivers; this is a play that pulls no punches.

It is the black humour of Barrie Keeffe's script that makes Sus bearable to watch. Despite the audience's sense of impending brutality, it is possible to enjoy the banter between suspect and interrogators (Anna Ford or Angela Rippon?) because it is quite simply very funny. Come the end of this intense, one act play, you are grateful for these earlier laughs.

Black, unemployed Delroy believes he has been dragged into an East London police station on the eve of Thatcher's '79 victory thanks to the controversial 'sus' laws – the ability for the police to stop and search anyone, purely based on a suspicion. As Delroy says, he appears to have a chemical aroma that makes him irresistibly attractive to cops. The reality is much worse – yet it is not until almost halfway through the play that this is revealed to Delroy, in the most cruel and heartless manner. The intimacy of the staging, and the fact that the audience is always one step ahead, makes us feel almost complicit in his brutish treatment.

It is a heavy irony that, on the day I saw Sus, it was announced that thousands had been stopped and searched illegally under section 44 of the 2000 Terrorism Act. However, Sus is less about stop and search laws (past and present), and more about the abuse of power and human capacity to degrade a fellow human being. Despite the historical parallels, one hopes that the intervening thirty years have delivered progress, at least within the British policing system.

Despite the relative shortness of the play, the three characters are fully fleshed out and believable – and extremely convincingly acted by Clint Dyer (Delroy), Simon Armstrong (Karn) and Laurence Spellman (Wilby). For sheer acting intensity alone, this production is well worth a visit.

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