Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor

A Play Of Its Time

Julie Hesmondhalgh
Julie Hesmondhalgh
Charley Miles’ play, There Are No Beginnings, may not be a ‘…story about the Yorkshire Ripper’, but it is very much a text born out of those ghastly events of the late 70’s and early 80’s when Peter Sutcliffe was on the loose and West Yorkshire women existed in a temporary world of paranoia.

However, the country’s most famous serial killer, not mentioned by name, is, in some ways, incidental to the plot, which is more about four women and how each of them are affected by unfolding events that left a police force in disarray and the UK national media in a state of frenzy.

Helen is a prostitute, deluded into believing that her pimp is her ‘boyfriend’. June operates the refuge that takes her under its wing. Sharon is June’s daughter who befriends Helen, and Fiona is the policewoman wrestling with male chauvinism in the West Yorkshire Force whilst doing her bit to keep Helen on the straight and narrow.

Tessa Parr
Tessa Parr
It is a very human play that could easily have wallowed in the downtrodden 70’s when strikes were at their height and Maggie was the politician to hate, however, it was beautifully laced with humour and I have to say that Tessa Parr as Sharon and Natalie Gavin as Helen were a beautiful tennis match; tight, together and in total control.

Julie Hesmondhalgh, best known as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street, was the play’s matriarch and totally convincing as June, a mother trying to come to terms with her own challenging teenager whilst also attempting to support vulnerable women like Helen.

And Jesse Jones as policewoman Fiona was stoical and captured, perfectly, that matter-of-fact persona so often associated with people who spend a career in the uniformed services, where facts matter and compassion can, sometimes, be a little sparse.

The body of the play was engrossing and whilst, I’m sure, the first few pages of dialogue make perfect sense to a cast that have had the benefit of extended rehearsals, I felt that Miles’ initial dialogue was conceptually foggy, purely because of its complexity of thought.

There was little time to contemplate what she was trying to say before your brain was having to deal with rapid fire dialogue. However, it will be a text that unfolds more comprehensively with subsequent viewings.

Did I enjoy this production? Yes I did. Despite its dark content there were many uplifting and laugh-out-loud moments. It gripped you early on and kept you in your seat to the end.

A brave choice as its opening offering for the newly re-vamped Leeds Playhouse, but certainly one that will get local audiences thinking.

There Are No Beginnings
Leeds Playhouse
Until November 19th