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COPS by Tony Tortora at Southwark Playhouse | Review

Daniel Francis In COPS - Photo Robert Day.
Daniel Francis In COPS – Photo Robert Day.

COPS is the second play by budding New York born playwright Tony Tortora. It tries to explore the world of Chicago policing in 1957: “a pressure cooker police precinct office in which four cops of different ages, classes and races struggle to work as a team”(director’s programme notes).

The production is blessed with an excellent team of five actors who try to breathe life into the dialogue by terrific energy, pace and interaction.

Three of them spend much of the play loudly arguing with each other, which gets tiring on the ears. Roger Alborough, who takes centre stage almost throughout, plays Stan, a 67 year old cop who should have retired years ago but, because of his wife’s spending habits, has to continue working in spite of health problems. He finds fault with everything and appears so stressed that one wonders why he has not had several heart attacks. He continually shouts but copes beautifully with a quiet monologue in Act Two in which he reminisces about life in the police when he joined 50 years previously.

Rosey, being black in 1950s Chicago, is the butt of much of Stan’s venom. He is handsomely portrayed by Daniel Francis, who almost succeeds in making him believable by toning down what Tortora has given him to say, as well as the volume.

Foxy, Jack Flammiger, is a rooky cop, from a wealthy background, and therefore looked down on by both Stan and Rosey, hence many of the rather wearying, loud, arguments.

James Sobol Kelly (Eulee) is the most successful at portraying a three-dimensional character, thanks mainly to the fact that the playwright has given him a mostly sedentary role as the precinct’s lieutenant who will do anything for a quiet life. Facially he is superb: most expressive – we can tell what he is thinking just by his subtle body language. His is also the most believable Chicago accent – probably because the actor was born there!

The fifth character, Hurley (Ben Keaton) is underused and underwritten.

As I have intimated, the play is directed with tremendous enthusiasm by Andy Jordan, though the result is often very loud, often lacking light and shade and variety of pace. It is as though he realises that the dialogue is inclined to be contrived and that the various scenes refuse to build to climaxes, but he and the ensemble make the most of this ‘student’ play from which I am sure Tony Tortora will go on to pen more believable work.

The composite set is the work of Anthony Lamble who has succeeded in using the space effectively. He is also responsible for the period costumes and 1950s furniture and props which greatly aid the atmosphere as do Robbie Butler’s lighting and D J Johnson’s fight direction.

Recommended to those who enjoy seeing actors physically working hard at close quarters, but at two hours twenty minutes the play is at least 30 minutes too long.

3 Star Review

Review by John Groves

Chicago. 1957. Four cops, different ages, classes and races, mired in duplicity and mutual suspicion, have to grab a gangster turned state witness before the Mob do.

Outside their office the world is changing. The Civil Rights movement. Race riots. Mass consumerism. Rock ‘n’ Roll. Elvis has arrived! Sex is everywhere…

As much comedy as it is drama, with wonderfully written characters, razor-sharp, witty banter, authentic spiky dialogue, and explosive scenes of emotional power and soul-baring poignancy, ‘COPS’ examines masculinity and racism whilst offering a touching message about how love conquers all and blood being thicker than water.

Creative Team
Director & Dramaturg – Andy Jordan
Set & Costume Designer – Anthony Lamble
Set Design Assistant – Jeremy Daker
Composer & Sound Designer – Simon Slater
Lighting Designer – Robbie Butler
Fight Direction – D. J. Johnson
Producers – Brian Daniels and Andy Jordan
Assistant Director/Producer – Timothy Trimingham Lee
Production Assistants – Philippa Lawford and Bev Taylor
Production Manager – Adam Burns
Stage Manager – Lucy Rees
Costume Supervisor – Lorna Sherry
Casting Associate – Elleane Green
Work Experience/Intern – Alexander Creasey

Roger Alborough
Jack Flammiger
Daniel Francis
Ben Keaton
James Sobol Kelly

Andy Jordan Productions and Pluto Productions present
by Tony Tortora
15 JAN – 1 FEB 2020
Start Time 8pm
Matinee Starts 3.30pm
Running Time 120 mins including interval


  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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1 thought on “COPS by Tony Tortora at Southwark Playhouse | Review”

  1. Tony Tortora revealed his talents years ago. During the 70s there was a skit for an office Christmas party that is still talked about today.

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