Four star review of A Force to Be Reckoned With
Amanda Whittington’s second play for Mikron Theatre, after 2021’s Atlanta Forever which explored the early days of women’s football, is a wise and witty celebration of women in the police force.
Set in the 1950s, the era in which women were first recruited as professional officers, the action takes place in a fictional market town somewhere in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Chalk-and-cheese new recruits Ruby Roberts (Rachel Hammond) and Iris Armstrong (Hannah Baker) find that their duties appear to be mostly restricted to ‘making a brew’ and doing the typing. Ruby is feisty, streetwise and ambitious, while Iris is more conventional, straight out of police college, keen to make a good impression and not to rock the boat.
Both, however, are frustrated by the lack of appreciation of their skills. They remain resilient and are soon taking on specialist duties involving the care of women and children. It is pioneering work and they have much to be proud of but Ruby wants to become a detective. Needless to say, as a woman, she doesn’t receive much encouragement on that front. Despite their differences – in approach, in class and experience – Ruby and Iris form a good working relationship and eventually a strong bond and genuine friendship. Of their male colleagues, their sergeant (Harvey Badger) is broadly supportive, while their fellow PC (Eddie Ahrens) is less so.
The main narrative features shoplifters, drunks, various local eccentrics and an abandoned baby – supporting characters are all skilfully played by the four talented actor-musicians – as Whittington’s script deftly weaves in significant dates and figures in the history of women in the police force across the decades, from the First World War onwards.
As with all Mikron shows, there are some cracking songs and plenty of laughs to be had among the serious themes – such as sexism, misogyny, class bias – that are addressed. Pacy, energetic and brilliantly performed by the cast, it is a fun, thought-provoking piece and another great production from the Mikron team.
Touring: At Lawrence Batley Theatre courtyard, Huddersfield, July 6, Tolson Museum, Huddersfield, September 16, Clements Hall, York, September 17, Cleckheaton Library, September 28.