‘SUS’ shocks Lincoln in to facing up to racist cruelty

With an outstanding performance of gripping drama, the Young Vic and Eclipse Theatre brought “SUS” to the LPAC theatre this week, holding the audience captivated from start to end.

Set on the eve of Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 election victory, the play depicts the brutal interrogation of Delroy, a black man, by two white officers Wilby and Karn, under the stop-and-search under suspicion laws (Sus) heavily prevalent at the time.


Clint Dyer gave a harrowing performance as Delroy, a black man arrested under the Sus laws at the LPAC in "SUS". Photo: Robert Day

From walking into the theatre, it was clear that it would be intense. The seating was in-the-round for 100 people — much more intricate than the LPAC’s usual seating arrangement — which made the experience incredibly personal and gave the audience no room for escape.

The set was minimal and kept the audience’s focus entirely on the action. But this need not have been a worry as the performances from all three actors were absolutely sterling. In a recent interview with The Linc, “SUS” writer Barrie Keeffe promised “three magnificent performances” and that was no exaggeration.

Simon Armstrong and Laurence Spellman, who played the two policemen, oozed extreme conservatism as they spoke of Thatcher’s nearing victory and their arresting black people under the Sus laws because they “don’t like the look of his beard”. It was grotesque to watch and hear, but even more startling to consider that it actually happened.

And with the entrance of the pitiful Delroy, played by Clint Dyer,  the mood completely changed and chemistry between the characters began to build. Dyer’s portrayal of a man unaware of  why he was being brought into custody, but also unconcerned about it as it happened so frequently, was heart wrenching to say the least.

The brutality of the officers playing with an innocent man because they could, demonstrated their sordid desire to exercise their authority upon individuals who they deemed inferior because society or legislation allows them to. It was unbearable to take sometimes, but the level of intensity was necessary to highlight the injustice of institutionalised racism.

A simple review cannot do this play justice, it can’t be recommended highly enough. The faces in the audience were still with focus and shock at not only the explicit content, but also the realism in the acting.

The in-the-round seating certainly benefited this as there was less pressure on, for example,  projecting voices to the back of the room and so seeming melodramatic. Instead this was like watching a real-life scene and being forced to face up to unfortunate truths.

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