Stage review: There Are No Beginnings - Leeds Playhouse, Bramall Rock Void

Julie Hesmondhalgh in There are No Beginnings.
Julie Hesmondhalgh in There are No Beginnings.
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Writers will be queuing up to create work for this utterly extraordinary new studio theatre for Leeds. It is perfect.

The highly regarded Charley Miles has the honour of being the first to write something for what will become a coveted space.

Tessa Parr (Sharon) There Are No Beginnings at Leeds Playhouse. Photography by Zoe Martin

Tessa Parr (Sharon) There Are No Beginnings at Leeds Playhouse. Photography by Zoe Martin

The play claims to be not about the Yorkshire Ripper and the title claims there are no beginnings. Both claims prove ultimately false. It is intensely about the Ripper, albeit viewed through the gaze of four women and it is very definitely about beginnings and endings.

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The play opens with the Ripper’s first murder in 1975, an event which feels like it marked the beginning of the end of innocence, a time when mums stopped leaving their doors unlocked and allowing their children to play in the streets and it marked the beginning of a new age of terror.

While the thesis of the title can be argued with, there is no arguing that this marks an exceptionally mature piece of work from Miles. Only her third major play, it sees her playing with form to create an impressively theatrical piece of work.

The cast are exceptional, with Tessa Parr one of a handful of actors able to traverse convincingly playing a 14 year old to a young woman in the space of a couple of hours, and Julie Hesmondhalgh playing the role of woman, mother, indignant wife and rage-filled potential victim with extraordinary depth.

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They are joined by policewoman Jesse Jones and Natalie Gavin, who plays a prostitute, all living through the six years of the Ripper’s reign of terror. The moment Gavin realises, as Helen, that she is a prostitute and her boyfriend is no boyfriend, but a pimp, is a beautifully nuanced piece of work.

The news footage in which we hear the victims referred to as ‘bodies’, dehumanised in death as they were in life, is powerful and important and underlines why Miles’s act of giving a voice back to these women, hearing their experiences of living in a time when the ‘pathetic man’ known as the Yorkshire Ripper had the loudest voice, is vital.

Director Amy Leach, playing on a smaller, more intense canvas than we’ve seen previously has created a piece worthy of launching this brilliant new space.

4 STARS

To November 2.