Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Dangerous Lady, Theatre Royal Stratford East

Review: Dangerous Lady, Theatre Royal Stratford East

Published in Time Out, 26.10.2012

There’s enough plot in Dangerous Lady to warrant arrest under the Terrorism Act. It’s got births, deaths and hospitalisations. Not to mention bank heists, police raids, corrupt clergymen, unexpected pregnancies and a car park full of exploding ice-cream vans.

You’d expect nothing less from a novel by hard-boiled crime queen Martina Cole and adapter Patrick Prior deserves huge credit for crowbarring it all into a quick-fire two-and-half-hours. That he finds time for some great jokes is nothing short of miraculous.

Conversely, it does end up looking totally reductive. Novels can take time to unravel thoughts and emotions. Theatre can’t, and this story of protagonist Maura Ryan’s rise to the top of an infamous London clan all boils down to being the response to an enforced teenage abortion.

The ever-dependable Claire-Louise Cordwell finds a fine thread of vulnerability beneath Maura’s steely exterior while James Clyde is rasping and ruthless as older brother Michael.

Lisa Goldman’s production could take more care with such social subversion, but tears off like a get-away car using the twin revolve to create a real stage-turner.

The guilty pleasures fade, though. When Cole’s plot veers into standard double-double-crossing territory, Dangerous Lady grows wearisome.

Photograph: Theatre Royal Stratford East

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