Paul Johnson | 01 Feb 2017 14:04pm
There’s a world premiere passing through Bromley’s Churchill Theatre this week from Middle Ground Theatre Company as the first stage adaptation of Barry Reed’s courtroom drama, The Verdict, tours the UK. And its keeping audiences well and truly on the edges of their seats.
1982’s Oscar-nominated film, which boasted a screenplay by David Mamet and starred Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling and James Mason, sits in most critics’ top-10 courtroom dramas alongside such classics as A Few Good Men, Inherit the Wind, The Crucible and Twelve Angry Men. However, I have a feeling most people may be fairly unfamiliar with this storyline.
When Mrs McDaid’s daughter went into the church-run St Catherine Laboure Hospital to give birth to her third child she was a healthy young woman in her twenties. However, following an emergency during her labour, Deborah Anne Doherty was left in a permanent vegetative state, unable to hear, walk, talk, eat, drink. Washed up alcoholic attorney, Frank Galvin, must decide whether to accept an attractive and much-needed out of court pay-off or take on the might of the Church’s legal team in a multi-million-dollar medical malpractice lawsuit.
This new stage adaptation from Margaret May Hobbs, directed and designed by Michael Lunney, has been crafted into a masterful piece of theatre that grips its audiences throughout.
Clive Mantle (Robin of Sherwood, Casualty, Holby City, Vicar of Dibley) turns in a tour de force performance as Galvin. Whilst the gripping storyline, as with most top courtroom dramas, goes a long way to keeping the audience’s attention, it is the added interest of Mantle’s extraordinary underdog performance that provides the real hook. In a career that has slowly worn him down to the nub of defeat, here is a man who for once refuses to see injustice prevail and is suddenly willing to risk everything by taking on the mighty Attorney at Law J. Edward Concannon, who has never lost a case. Thanks to Mantle’s brilliant characterisation, despite Galvin’s flaws we immediately develop a sense of the goodies versus the baddies where even the judge seems bent on making sure Galvin fails in his bid. We are rooting for our plaintiff all the way.
Jack Shepherd, as Galvin’s number two Moe Katz, also adds great weight to the legal team and works well opposite Mantle. As the two ‘mature’ attorneys assess their far-from-convincing position one realises that the pair are fighting for their careers as well as their client, as well as justice. In the face of insurmountable odds, it’s all they’ve got left in them, win or oblivion. The moral crusade for the truth is all they have to sustain them.
In a beautifully cast production Peter Harding makes for a ruthless defence attorney, Concannon, and Richard Walsh as Judge Eldredge Sweeney does another great job in alienating the entire audience.
Good courtroom dramas are powerful yet strange pieces of theatre. While you’ll never be able to match your very first experience of having a plot played out before you – with all the various twists and turns along the way, oddly, they also manage to stand the test of time. Twelve Angry Men is the perfect example; no matter how well you know the plot (and the outcome), it still draws audiences in every time.
Well, as a play The Verdict is now certainly up there with the best of them and is set to become a much-talked-about theatre classic. Thanks to this brand-new stage adaptation, together with its stellar cast, audiences are being treated to an evening of enthralling theatre at its very best, and let’s face it, that is exactly why audiences go to the theatre!
The Verdict continues at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre until Saturday, 4th January before continuing on its UK tour.
- : admin
- : 31/01/2017