The team at Liverpool-based Sidehammer Productions is hoping audiences see the parallels in today’s world when Barrie Keeffe's powerful 1979 play SUS is revived in the spring.
Keeffe’s classic is a powerful, politicised cry against the threat of institutional racism. Originally performed in London shortly after Margaret Thatcher swept to power, Sus has since been around the world, with productions in New York, Los Angeles, Europe and Australia; there have even been adaptations in Pakistan and India. The play is at Liverpool's Hope Street Theatre on February 2-3, 2024.
The drama is set on election night 1979, and named after the "sus" (suspected person) laws of the time which allowed police to stop and search anyone on suspicion of intent to commit a crime.
The play takes place during the graveyard shift at a police station as two detectives, Karn and Wilby, empowered by the prospect of a new right-wing government, place bets on which party will win. When a black man is arrested and accused of his wife’s murder, he believes he will be fodder for an incoming government keen to flex its law-and-order muscles.
Sidehammer’s new adaptation will be produced by the team behind last year’s successful revival of John Dillon’s Wearing Colours, with Sean Ponzini directing Dave J Williamson, Rikki Dallas and Thom Williamson.
As Thom Williamson explains, “Though the play takes place in 1979 it is still, in many ways, very much a reflection of our world now. In the last year alone there have been shocking reports of racism, misogyny, homophobia and bullying in public institutions, and many of the sickening views expressed by Karn and Wilby are echoed in the dehumanizing rhetoric used by many politicians today.”
*The "Sus" law was introduced in the early 1800s to prevent vagrancy, but had evolved into something much more sinister. That law was repealed in 1981, but hasn't gone away, having been replaced by other stop and search powers under public order and anti-terrorism legislation.
More info and tickets here