Olivia Rook, Critics’ Circle Main Editor
The latest installment in Nottingham Playhouse’s Conspiracy Season is a piece commissioned for the theatre, written by Kefi Chadwick, looking at the recently revealed nationwide undercover police corruption cases. Any Means Necessary, whilst drawing on this public scandal, is based on a particular story in Nottingham, giving the drama a more personal feel, particularly for local audience members. This clearly resonated with Critics’ Circle, as members connected with the actors depicting this very unsettling story. Although there has been some debate as to the quality of acting provided by Kate Sissons (as Mel), Critics’ Circle has praised Nicholas Karimi for his multi-role playing of Gav and Jimmy: two starkly different roles, with two very different accents!
Critics’ Circle is unanimous in the feeling that designer Sara Perks has done something creative and innovative with this production. The series of mini stages which depict a variety of locations, from the home of the undercover officer’s family to the victim’s apartment, demonstrate how the events are uncomfortably and dangerously drawn together, Dave (played by Samuel Oatley) being unable to keep these conflicting parts of his life separate. With exciting, fresh material, exclusive to the Playhouse, and a strong cast, Any Means Necessary impresses with its emotional complexity and depth.
The Truth Needs Sharing – Poppy Cook Review
Director Giles Croft commissioned Any Means Necessary to be written as, upon hearing about the national scandal, he felt that the truth needed sharing – I couldn’t agree more. Any Means Necessary is based on the ongoing investigation following undercover police officers having their identities revealed. The officers led, and are still leading, double lives in order to find out information in low-threat activist groups in the UK.
When I first heard about this case, I was intrigued. It is almost impossible to believe that the events of the play really happened in someone’s life, which makes it such a powerful production. Additionally, what is even more compelling is that the whole play is set in Nottingham in recent years (around 2010). The issues raised within the play are still relevant today which is crucial within such a powerful piece of theatre.
The set design by Sara Perks and lighting by Chris Davey are extremely clever, with four different levels used to represent the many lives of the undercover police. It is particularly effective as the officer’s certainty of his identity starts to slip as more than one scene takes place at the same time.
On the whole the cast were convincing in portraying realistic characters. The performance from Nicholas Karimi was particularly strong; he played two very believable but differing characters and until looking in the programme at the interval I didn’t know it was the same actor! Unfortunately I was disappointed with the performance from Kate Sissons. I found her acting to be inconsistent – in some scenes I really connected to her character but in others it felt more like she was reciting lines.
Despite this, I enjoyed the performance.
Evan Gwynne- Review
This play stands out in several ways. The set, the characters, the plot. It covers a rather controversial topic of undercover police, looking at how the system ruined the lives of so many people – both the victims and the policemen themselves.
That’s the plot (or at least the idea of it), and I mentioned characters before. Well, the play follows the lives of two in particular: the policeman, Dave Cross (which is not a spoiler, because if you can’t figure out who the policemen is within three minutes, god help you) and an activist, whom Dave is sent to spy on in order to learn more about the activist group, (I’ve forgotten the name of the activist, but that’s hardly important. Go see the play if you want to know). Overall, despite there being a good amount of characters – wait, I’ve got it, Mel! That’s her name. I just remembered – the cast only totals seven, which was interesting, as most of the actors doubled up and played multiple parts. The cast displayed a range of acting from cold and controlling, to drunk and comical, which I think is a good example of the effort the actors put in.
Lastly, the set. The set is composed of 3 levels, which I think helps to develop the characters and allows the story to flow, as the scene changes take no time at all. It also means that all the different places are on show at once. Just a note, the second level changes between acts. That’s something you might not pick up.
So, overall. Is it good? Yes. Is it informative/educational? Yes. Should you watch it? I’d strongly recommend it.
Matty Collins – Review
Any Means Necessary, written by Kefi Chadwick and directed by Giles Croft, is an adapted version of a real life story, containing issues about betrayal, loyalty and heartbreak. Set in the Noughties, it follows the story of an undercover police officer called Dave. Samuel Oatley plays this character with great conviction and has the ability to not make you see him as an actor in a play, but really brings the scenes to life. Dave infiltrates a group of activists – who are just trying to save the world – through the character Mel, played outstandingly well by Kate Sissons who shines in every single scene she’s in. As soon as Dave is accepted by the group he begins his work as the officer and brings down every single activist attack that is thrown at them. With the promise of promotion, Dave keeps up the work and fully immerses himself in the life of “Dave Cross”, and maybe this is where it all goes wrong for him. Can Dave carry on his work, or is the pressure on him and his family too much? Can he keep his cover, or will Mel realise who he truly is? Is the risk worth it, has Dave done what’s best?
A fantastic performance from the entire cast with a beautifully lit stage, down to the outstanding technical team. I would happily go and see this piece again and again!
Harry Radford – Review
Any Means Necessary is a play driven by a scandalous story. It takes place over a few years and uses multiple levels to create multiple scenes. The play is inspired by a real world police investigation. Undercover officers are told to get close to protesters in order to leak information about the protests to the police. This enables the play to have an ‘educational’ value as it informs the viewer about the tragic event.
A policeman becomes an undercover officer to stump the plans of protesters. He does this by getting very close to one of the female activists and is thus accepted as one of the group. He then relays this information to the police. After a time the relationship becomes serious, causing the officer to sacrifice his relationship with his own family. He slowly, mentally declines, his mind unstable. Who is his family? Additionally, the play opens with two women discussing what happened to one of them, and later it is discovered that this a ploy to stop the voices of the affected being heard.
Personally, I thought the play was great! The characters are emotional. Some of them felt absent from the plot, but they were still there. The play jumped through time a bit, which made it hard to follow (or maybe that’s just me). As it was my first play (not in including pantos), I enjoyed it!
Any Means Necessary is a story driven play, which I enjoyed! 4/5
Rachael Wells – Review
Tension, anticipation and humour are rife in this compelling play, telling the story of the still unfolding events of police infiltration in activist groups, as part of the Nottingham Playhouse’s Conspiracy Season. The set immediately draws your attention with five levels of staging exposed, all being at different heights, which depended on how much corruption is touching the people within that set. The higher level of staging was occupied by those less affected by the betrayal. At the top of the staging platforms were the police service, second down the policeman’s family, and on the third level are the family of the victims. The fourth level is where the victim’s lives are touched and changed forever by the policemen, and finally the last level is where we see the actions within the courtroom. The three different victims speak there and tell their stories. The historical and real-life aspect of the subject will draw you in, and make you realise how damaged everyone was by the actions of the police.
Scarlett Shaw – Character Responses
Yes, Dave, well he became my everything. I met him at a protest. I knew he was too good to be true. Imagine, having the best years of your life with the best person you thought you could ever meet. Imagine it all being complete lies. The best years of my life were complete lies. Wow, that’s deep. I drove Gav away all for, well, nothing really. Some times are worth forgetting, obviously I had no other choice. – Mel
That Dave, I didn’t like him, I never really loved him, either. I played along, I didn’t want Mel upset. I knew he’d hurt her, but I loved to see Mel happy, whenever Mel was happy, I was happy. Ah maybe I did love her. Mel didn’t drive me away, she didn’t. I was thinking of moving anyway, some people were worth living for, and Mel was definitely my person. – Gav
Mel, I never meant to hurt her, I really didn’t. I had no idea that what I was doing would cause so much pain in the long run. My work, well, it was my dream. Oh it was definitely my dream. I had been working up to that position for 10 odd years. Some things are more important than love that messes with your head. – Dave
Oh Mel, we were best friends, and Dave, I never knew the guy was undercover. I thought I was the only one. We were the same in a way, well not really the same, we were both secret police officers undercover to help with the activist problem. I loved my job, but it got too much after a while. As my best friend, I didn’t want to lose her. Some friends are worth fighting for. – Karen
Anything meaningful is necessary – Caitlin Kupsa Review
This performance felt very realistic, after our brief explanation from the director of what the piece was based on. I thought that it was a very interesting performance because of its topic, and the fact that it was related to things that happened in Nottingham. It is about an undercover police officer who tries to exploit some protesters that are causing trouble for the government. It was based around a court case, pulling apart the corrupt system to try and stop this from continually happening. The undercover officer undertakes many challenges along the way including some that could make his secret identity not so secret. There was bad language in it and, although at the start it was in context, towards the end the profanities went a bit over board. Overall I thought that it was a very good performance and I would recommend it to anyone over the age of 12 because of the profanities.
Watch This Play By Any Means Necessary – Ryan Dickson Review
Any Means Necessary is a play about an undercover policeman who is trying to lead two lives, his normal life and his undercover life. The undercover policeman then gets lost in which life is his real one. I guess this hits you when you realise the events in the play actually happened in real life. The policemen were sent out to go undercover in protest groups that were only trying to help the world. They were told to target women and win their hearts. That’s what made it so bad – that men were getting into serious relationships with women and some even had kids even if they had kids at home. This tore up relationships with their real partners.
My favourite actor has to be Nicholas Karimi who plays Gav and Jimmy. I particularly liked his work as Gav because I felt he lit up the stage and made it a bit livelier with a very good Scottish accent. I also liked the work of Samuel Oatley who played Dave the undercover policeman
The set was interesting, very interesting. It was split up into four different levels which each represented different rooms. The first room was his undercover life, the second one was his real life, the third level is where Mel’s (the victim of the undercover policeman) family is and the final level is where the undercover policeman will report to his manager.
I think Any Means Necessary is a play suitable for the Nottingham Playhouse audience as it is deep and emotional but it is also funny and did make me chuckle at some points. This play is suitable for 13 year olds and above as it has a deep subject matter and has some strong language. I would rate it a 5* out of 5 as I absolutely loved it. A great congratulations to the actors, director and everyone else involved.
Stan Cook – Review
Any Mean Necessary is a play following the life of its main character Mel, played by Kate Sissons, an environmental campaigner living in Nottingham. She slowly falls in love with Dave, played by Samuel Oatley, a ‘carpenter’ whom she met at a protest. Little did Mel know that Dave was actually an undercover policeman, with a completely different life aside from theirs with his own wife and kids. Slowly, Dave begins to fall into the trap of catching feelings for Mel, whilst also feeding back her every move to the police. Watch the play unfold and see whether Dave will chose his life away from home with Mel, or to give up on her completely by deciding to go back to his normal life with his wife and kids.
I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. The story was captivating with many twists and turns. It was also based locally which made a new idea more relatable to me and was another factor as to why I was able to follow the story easily. As fascinating as the story was, the set was my favourite thing about the show. Designed by Sara Perks, it features four separate locations, all of which find themselves on individual raised platforms around the stage. It allowed, at times, two different things to be going on, in obviously different places, at the same time. Each individual ‘mini-set’ was enhanced fabulously by the lighting, designed by Chris Davey.
I would recommend coming to watch the show at the Playhouse – it runs from the 5th to the 20th of February – to anyone aged 12+ as it includes quite a mature theme and infrequent strong language. If you are local it will make it all the more special due to the content.
Holly Jackson – Review
Any Means Necessary explores the story of women whose involvement with anti-government groups and movements led to their being targeted and spied on by undercover policemen, with whom some even entered into romantic relationships. The effect of this job on the undercover policemen and their families is also examined and explored. These real life events, most of which occurred in the 1980s and 90s and uncovered in the 2000s, some in Nottingham, were shown primarily through the relationship between the principal protagonists of Mel and Dave.
The production was very impressive overall; the accounts from the women who spoke to the authorities about their experiences were very emotive, and the general mixture of sad and serious scenes alongside humorous moments and lines, with just the right emphasis and feeling given to both, made the characters and their stories engaging and poignant.
The set helped to make the show very engaging; the mixture of different places, evident in the different platforms on the stage, made clear how confusing it was for Dave to be living in two very different worlds, as two different people. The clear mixture of modern and more traditional homes, with the harsh lighting contrasted against a late 20th century flat setting, was interesting.
The music and lighting added greatly to the drama of the piece, and effectively constructed and maintained the atmosphere of the production.
Many themes were explored very creatively, provoking the audience to consider issues around truth, lies, identity and trust in an unusual way. The audience are introduced to a very different set of experiences that it is unlikely they will have come across before.
Iman Aslam – Review
This production provided a detailed insight into the life of an undercover police officer based on true events and situations. It was an interesting and developed play, I thoroughly enjoyed how they presented the various storylines.
There was a running piece of drama in a court situation recreating two cases where women had been left by undercover police officers; like the principal female protagonist, Mel. During the time when these events occurred, many of the police investigators had families of their own and I enjoyed how the production showed the devastation afflicted upon the family as well as the women involved.
The central plot was well developed and I felt that the twist, in which Dave did not show up at the end of the play, was effective. Personally, I think this accurately conveyed how unhappily most of these cases really ended. It was an innovative concept for a play and very enjoyable. I found some parts a bit slow, particularly when a scene was focused upon a single conversation. However, I loved the use of lighting and I was surprised and impressed that all of the scenery was on stage at all points. The acting was skilled and believable which made the production all the more entertaining. I would’ve liked more dramatic plot twists or changes to have occurred just to keep the show engaging.
The character of Dave was very believable – the lies he told were most likely very similar to the lies told in real cases. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the play and the stories told within it.
Ted Hepburn-Williams – Review
I absolutely loved this play. It was brilliantly acted, the story was amazing, and the splintering of the last scene across the whole play was really interesting and engaging to view.
Possibly my favourite thing about the production was watching the psychological effect having two lives had on Dave (the undercover police officer). It was also really interesting to see how he affected and potentially ruined the lives of the two women in his life (his wife from his real life and his girlfriend from when he was undercover). His being away so long clearly had a very negative effect on his kids (he was away so much they forgot who he was). The performances were all brilliant, although in my opinion, Dave (played by Samuel Oatley) really stood out. I adored the set and the lighting, which really helped to add to the idea that it was all happening simultaneously.
My only criticism is that the occasional comedic moments detracted from the overall serious note, but they were few and far between, so it wasn’t a big problem. Overall, this was one of the best plays I have seen, and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
Chloe Brearley – Review
We watched a play called Any Means Necessary with Critics’ Circle. I thought that the play was very interesting and I really enjoyed it. It was about people lying about themselves as there were secrets throughout the play. For example, the police did not tell their wives that they were police officers.
I loved the setting, as it was lovely. I thought it was a better play than the previous one that we saw. It was quite funny, during the play some of the scenes made me laugh. I liked the transitions when a scene changed to the next scene. Some actors were stronger than others, but I particularly liked that the character Karen had a sense of humour, and was a brilliant actress.
In some parts of the play I got confused, and I did not know what was happening, but my favourite part was when they were all dressing up and sang Abba’s ‘Take a Chance on me’, as at other points in the play, all the character’s costumes were casual and normal. I hope to see another play as good as this one, as I was looking forward to seeing this play and shall look forward to the next play. I thought it was a wonderful production.
Georgie Daunt – Review
Based on true events, Any Means Necessary tells the story of an undercover police officer, ‘Dave’, sent to infiltrate an activist community. Showing the damage it causes to the people around him, particularly Mel, the woman who falls in love with him while he is undercover.
I thought this play was put together wonderfully, showing the relationship as it builds and is torn apart, as well as the breaking relationship between the character David and his real wife back home. I felt that the way both of these relationships were presented and how they crossed over really helped to demonstrate just how much this undercover work damaged the lives of all those involved.
To me, one of the things that stood out most in this performance was the set. The stage is split into four different levels, each level representing a different area. The main action between Dave and Mel takes place centre stage on the lowest section, with his family house only one level higher and the area where he meets his boss at the highest level. To me, this represented the power of the characters; the police are fully in control with the activists right at the bottom to show how they were all just pawns in the game of the officials.
I thought that the acting from both Nicholas Karimi and Samuel Oatley was fantastic. Especially from Karimi who I did not realise was multi-role playing until right at the end of the play.
I highly recommend this play for a range of audiences as I feel like it has something for everyone in it.
The Last Time I Trust – by Louisa Barton
I am alone.
Alone and cold
I am along
Alone and spoilt
I am lost
Were all I had
I am broken
Broken by you
As you were always
We are waiting
Waiting for the truth
But for now
Our trust is lost.
I have two different wives,
I have two different phones,
I have two different lives,
I have two different homes.
I work undercover,
I am never around,
I deceive like no other,
I shall never be found.
But my worlds start to blend,
They will soon become one,
When my wife says “The end”,
I will be left with none.
I keep up the good work,
I shall not let it slip,
I continue to lurk,
Till my world starts to split.
She begins to have doubts,
So I leave her a note,
“Things are not working out”,
Say the words that I wrote.
I beg for forgiveness,
Tell her that I do care,
I show her my business
Assure her I’ll be there.
She stands in the court room,
Speaks of what I have done,
In the corner I loom,
This is no longer fun.
I had two different wives,
I had two different phones,
I had two different lives,
I had two different homes.
But now I have nothing,
I am left all alone,
I have no job bluffing,
And no place to call home.
Zoe Pritchard-Tye – Review
I feel that Any Means Necessary is a brilliant show, although not short on swearing!
It is about Dave who is an undercover police officer, hiding a wife and two children at home. As the story develops, it gets complicated, as he is undercover for many years so he doesn’t get much time to see his real family, and his wife eventually breaks up with him. He still has his girlfriend, though things get risky after she finds his real passport, as it has his real name on it. Dave meets up with his superior police officer, who makes sure everything is ok, and Dave provides information about the next time people are going to protest, so that the police can be there.
People who have been through the same experiences get asked questions in parts of the play, as if they were in court. Dave then leads a massive protest, and makes sure everyone gets arrested. However, he gets let go by the police and has a mental breakdown as he has no wife, no children and no hope, and will soon have to break it off with his girlfriend before she finds out his true identity, and would then break up with him anyway. He leaves like most undercover cops, by just leaving a letter making his girlfriend feel like it is her fault, or that he is dead or hurt. Dave leaves his girlfriend with just her room-mate who is leaving for the countryside, and her best friend who has been working undercover herself. They cannot trace or find him, as he lied about where he grew up and his name, so there was no record for either of his names. The play contained much more than I am saying, including a fake back story, a dead mother and invasion of privacy. It has beautiful scenery with raised blocks, representing Mel’s living room, Dave’s old house’s living room, a hotel room and a family kitchen which then gets turned into a police station. In conclusion I would go again, as I think the play would be equally enjoyable a second time.
Lucy Pritchard-Tye – Review
Any Means Necessary is a play about police officers going undercover, to go to women (and sometimes men) and making them fall in love with them. This is so the police can go back to their superiors and feed them inside information about political and environmental protests their ‘partners’ were attending. The police would then be there and arrest people that would be taking part in the protest. In this play, the police officer is called Dave, and he has a wife and two children who don’t know what he’s doing only that his work is very secret. Due to this, he rarely sees them and grows apart from his wife as the years pass by whilst he is undercover.
In his undercover life, Dave meets an activist, Mel, who falls in love with him (which is rare for her), and slowly he starts to move in with her. At the beginning of the play, Mel, has a room-mate, Gav, who moves to the country side, allowing Dave to move in. Gav’s character is not short on lines, swearing frequently and the play starts off with him rummaging through cushions, looking under tables and drinking beer. One funny moment was when Gav leaves the room, and comes back wearing an Abba dress and wig, and bringing three more wigs for the rest of the characters. Two of the characters go out, leaving Dave and Mel alone, which is how their relationship begins. Dave and his superior meet up in a hotel and he reports back about the activist’s plans. Things get harder and harder with Dave and his wife, and they eventually break up. Dave is then forced to leave Mel too, as she is not needed any more, as the police have all the information they need from her. The play charts Dave’s life as it slowly crumbles. He leads a protest and makes sure the police are there to arrest everyone, and then gets taken into a room and told that he’s getting let go, and that he has nothing. No wife, no children, no hope, no happiness and is told to leave Mel with nothing but a note, with no record, no trace and no sign of existing.
This play has death and interrogation, invades people’s privacy and looks at all of the nooks and crannies of the story. It has meaning. The set is in blocks, some higher than the other, which represent Mel’s living room, her mother’s kitchen (which later on gets turned into the police station), Dave’s living room and the hotel room where he meets his superior. This is a brilliant play and is perfectly directed. You can tell that someone has put lot of thought into the script, the scenery, the acting, the costumes, the lighting, the music and the way it makes people feel.
Photography by Robert Day.