MIKRON Theatre Company are pursuing enquiries into the role of the pioneering women of Britain’s police force in Amanda Whittington’s new play A Force To Be Reckoned With.
After opening at the West Yorkshire company’s home of the Marsden Mechanics Hall on May 13, the premiere will be on tour nationally by canal, river and road until October 21, taking in Clements Hall, in York, on September 17 at 4pm.
Press performances will be at The Wetherby Whaler, Guiseley, tomorrownight and the Greater Manchester Police Museum & Archives, Manchester, on Saturday afternoon.
Billed as “more Heartbeat than Happy Valley”, A Force To Be Reckoned With captures a century of change in an arresting story directed by Gitka Buttoo with music by Greg Last and design by Celia Perkins.
In the cast are four actor-musician new to Mikron’s entertaining, enlightening and educational brand of theatre: Hannah Baker, Harvey Badger, Eddie Ahrens and Rachel Hammond, who played the punkish, free-spirited Peggy, one of the Amazons sisters, in Swallows And Amazons, Damian Cruden’s farewell production after 22 years as artistic director at York Theatre Royal in July-August 2019.
Equipped with a handbag, whistle and a key to the police box, WPC Iris Armstrong is ready for whatever the mean streets of a 1950s’ market town throws at her.
Fresh from police training school, she prepares for her first day on the beat. The reality is different, however. Stuck at the station, she soon finds her main jobs are typing and making brews.
Whereupon Iris joins forces with fellow WPC Ruby Roberts: an unlikely partnership, a two-girl department, called to any case involving women and children, from troublesome teens to fraudulent fortune tellers.
What starts as “women’s work” soon becomes a specialist role, one where Iris finds she is earning her place in a historic force to be reckoned with.
Along the way, she discovers the Edwardian volunteers who came before her, a lineage of Suffragettes-turned-moral enforcers, and the secrets that the police box hides.
Amanda Whittington made her Mikron debut with her women’s football drama Atalanta Forever in 2021 in a career that has accrued more than 40 plays, such as Be My Baby, The Thrill Of Love, Kiss Me Quick and her Ladies trilogy, plus seven series of D For Dexter and episodes of The Archers for BBC Radio 4.
“I’m delighted to be back at Mikron in their 51st year with A Force To Be Reckoned With. The play takes a light-hearted look at the lives of Women Police Constables in the 1950s, celebrating their spirit, optimism and heroic efforts to break the glass ceiling without a truncheon.”
Based in the village of Marsden, at the foot of the Yorkshire Pennines, Mikron have toured 68 productions over the past 51 years, spending more than 37,000 boating hours on board the vintage narrowboat Tyseley.
They perform their shows in unexpected places: a play about growing your own veg on an allotment; one about bees, staged next to hives; another about fish and chips, in a fish and chip restaurant; hostelling, in YHA youth hostels; the RNLI, at several lifeboat stations. Now into a sixth decade, the company has stacked up 5,300 performances, playing to 440,000 people.
A Force To Be Reckoned With is touring through the summer months alongside Twitchers, Poppy Hollman’s new play about the history of the RSPB (the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), full of birdsong and laughter.
Dates include a 2pm open-air performance at Scarcroft Allotments, Scarcroft Road, York, on Sunday, when no reserved seating or tickets are required, and instead a ‘pay what you feel’ collection will be taken after the show.
For tour dates and information on A Force To Be Reckoned With, visit http://mikron.org.uk