Interview: Justin Pemberton, director of Capital in the Twenty First Century
1 July 2020
Adapting one of the most groundbreaking and powerful books of our time, Capital in the Twenty First...
"When Edinburgh asked me if I was directing a reading as part of my retrospective, I jumped at the chance of reviving This Story of Yours. It’s a continuation of the themes I’ve been working on since Hyena, the ferocious, chilling nature of this play roars across every page. I’m relishing the idea of putting it on at the Traverse."
- Gerard Johnson on This Story of Yours
Originally staged at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1968 with the help of Harold Pinter, John Hopkins’ This Story of Yours is a harrowing three act examination of Johnson, a policeman accused of murdering a suspected paedophile during questioning. Each of the three acts is Johnson one on one with a different character. Act one and two take place in the aftermath of the crime and find Johnson in exchanges with his wife and senior officer, and act three jumps back in time to reveal the actual interrogation of the suspect.
"...the predicament that Johnson, the central character, dramatises is not solely a predicament that a policeman can find himself in; but, given that he is a policeman, the predicament then becomes tragic- no, tragic is a very strong word, like genius, that I’m loathe to use. Tragic is a word that people should say about you rather than about your own work. The fact that he is a policeman dramatises almost beyond bearing the flaw in his character, just as our need for policemen, our need for that kind of protection, and our need then socially to ostracise them if humanly possible, says a great deal more about us than it does about the police. When I came to write This Story of Yours, yes, I had always intended further to develop in non-adventure terms my reaction and feeling about the police. And this is it, the dilemma that Johnson finds himself in seemed to me the right means, and also the theatre, for me."
- John Hopkins on This Story of Yours, Transatlantic Review #32
The original play was directed by the highly respected Christopher Morahan, (Clockwise, Paper Mask), who also handled Hopkins’ critically acclaimed four-part television drama Talking to a Stranger for the BBC in 1966. Having first met several years earlier on BBC classic Z Cars, Morahan and Hopkins became renowned during this period as a formidable artistic team.
"After Z Cars, John and I wanted to do something together, and he decided to write a play about a policeman who behaved badly, because he’d been very concerned, and touched, by the pressures the police were under."
- Christopher Morahan on John Hopkins and This Story of Yours
John Hopkins, This Story of Yours, The Offence and Sean Connery
Adapted for the big screen by Hopkins himself in 1973 and renamed The Offence, the film was directed by Sidney Lumet and executive produced by its star, former EIFF patron Sean Connery. Having been captivated by Hopkins’ play at the Royal Court Theatre, Connery used his considerable influence with United Artists to get The Offence made. His performance in the finished product is widely regarded as one of the finest of his career.
"When you look at the Bond characterization, everybody says, ‘Oh, well he’s just charming.’ Well shit, that’s like saying Cary Grant was just charming. There is more acting skill in playing that kind of character. What he’s doing, stylistically, is playing high comedy. And that is extremely difficult to do, which is why there are so few of those actors, so few Cary Grants and Sean Connerys. But it’s acting, don’t kid yourself. And right away on The Hill, the very fact that I cast him in it meant something. And he was so thrilled to be taken that seriously for that kind of a drama. And when he got to produce a picture of his own, The Offence, a story he picked out, I was thrilled to be asked by him to direct."
- Sidney Lumet on Sean Connery and The Offence
John Hopkins, This Story of Yours, The Offence and Gerard Johnson
Lumet’s film was a source of inspiration for Johnson during the making of Hyena, and this led him to further investigate Hopkins’ artistic legacy. From that research, the idea of putting his directorial stamp on a reading of This Story of Yours was born.
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