Kingston 14 – reviews of 'fizzing' new cop drama

Apr 9, 2014

Roy Williams' new Jamaican crime yarn has guts, wit, and a menacing stage-debut by Goldie

Robert Day

What you need to know
Roy Williams's new drama about police corruption in Jamaica, Kingston 14, has opened at Theatre Royal, Stratford East to positive reviews. Young British playwright Williams is best known for his drama about race and violence, Fallout, which was adapted for Channel 4.

The play is set in Kingston, Jamaica, and performed mostly in patois with surtitles. A black British police officer is brought in to help solve the murder of a businessman but uncovers uncomfortable truths about the local police's relationship with a gang leader called the Joker. 

Clint Dyer directs an all-male cast including drum and bass musician and former EastEnders actor Goldie as the Joker. Runs until 26 April. 

What the critics like
Williams' spins a very good yarn with this "fizzing new cop-shop drama", says Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times. Dyer brings a driving energy to this production, savouring both the comic chaos and the intimate despair of this sorrowful tale of corruption peppered with outrageously rude gags.

Williams' returns to his own roots, exploring the country his parents emigrated from in this "spirited, raging drama", says Holly Williams in The Independent. It's a bracing evening with fine performances, including a suitably menacing stage debut from Goldie.

Kingston 14 has "guts, wit and vigorous performances", says Henry Hitchings in the Evening Standard. Williams's script is racy, wry and often painfully real, and Dyer injects fierce energy with plenty of amusement.

What they don't like
"Roy Williams's latest play shouldn't really work at all," says Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph. The surtitles for the patois are distracting, the main story of an outsider cop is generic and the tone is uneven, yet there's something about its "rumbustious" macho energy, fast-talking authenticity and noble intentions that carries the evening.

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