There can be few better places, or should that be plaices, to watch a show than in a world renown fish and chip restaurant. I thought that last year’s production at The Wetherby Whaler, formerly the original Harry Ramsden, by Mikron Theatre Company would be a one-off but to my surprise, and not a little pleasure, I was invited to another one in order to see the second play in the 2023 repertoire.
A Force To Be Reckoned With tells the story of the introduction and development of the use of women in the police force. As you would expect from Mikron it was done with a great deal of music and even more humour. The cast was the same four players as those I had the pleasure of seeing recently in their other 2023 offering, Twitchers. I noted then that it was a totally new cast from last year but they gelled together very well. Now they have had a little more time it was as though they had been colleagues for ages.
The first use of females in the police force was in 1883 when they were known as ‘Matrons’ and usually the wives of serving male officers. Their job was to guard the women and children brought into the police station.
The company and well-fed audience
It was 1911 before women were used ‘on the beat’ where they were used to ‘maintain public morality and decency’. In 1914 The Women’s Police Volunteers, later to become the Women’s Police Service, was formed but it was another year before Grantham Police bestowed full powers of arrest on them.
Like a lot of previous male bastions, the loss of men during the First World War opened vacancies for women and in 1919 The Metropolitan Police Women Patrols pounded the streets of London.
The play is set in 1952, four years after Elizabeth Bather was appointed the first female Chief Superintendent of ‘The Met’. Unlike previous Mikron productions I have had the pleasure of seeing, the action remained in the same year all the way through but there was a clever device employed to tell the story.
Left to right: Rachel Hammond, Harvey Badger, Eddie Ahrens and Hannah Baker.
There were obvious references to the history before 1952 but the subsequent development was handled by the use of the services of a regular informant and, what would now be called profiler, who claimed to be a clairvoyant and see into the future the future. He also used this ‘gift’ as a sideline to supplement his income. This meant that his predictions told the story post 1952.
The action begins with a new woman recruit taking up post in the local nick where her first job, unsurprisingly, was to get the kettle on. There was already a WPC in post whose main job was, apart from providing refreshments, to work in plain clothes and keep her eyes on women of ill repute. Actually, her clothes weren’t all that plain.
It goes without saying that the two women come up trumps even though, all these years later there still seems to be a fair amount of misogyny in The Force. Even so, I doubt we will ever again see a recruitment advert reading ‘Hefty Girls Wanted for Police Force’ who must have ‘brains plus a good physique’ and be ‘fairly good-looking’. It went on, in upper case, ‘THEY MUST NEVER MARRY OR THEIR CAREERS WILL END!’
Once again, Mikron have provided a great evening’s entertainment complete with comedy, music and information, their versatility never fails to amaze me. The fish and chips were ace as well!.
I always defer to people better placed, no I am not doing the joke again, than I to pass judgement and this time it was a couple of children aged about 11 or 12 who had left the family feast in the other part of the restaurant, to sneak a peek at what was going on. They were held spellbound for ages until collected by their parents.
Full credits are: Writer and Lyricist, Amanda Whittington; Composer and Co-Lyrisist, Greg Last; Director, Gitika Buttoo; Musical Director and Arranger, Dan McGlade and Set and Costume Designer, Celia Perkins.
The acting company is Eddie Ahrens, Harvey Badger, Hannah Baker and Rachel Hammond.
For more details of the shows and tour dates, please go to https://mikron.org.uk/shows where you should keep checking as new dates are being added all the time.
To see what is going on at your local Wetherby Whaler it is https://www.wetherbywhaler.co.uk
Feature image supplied by Mikron Theatre Company. Photographs by Stan Graham