Review – Silence In Court

Aug 12 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Impressive interactive theatre

Kerry Hamilton-Nicoll and Paul Murray in Silence in Court. Photo EmeraldBlue

Kerry Hamilton-Nicoll and Paul Murray in Silence in Court. Photo EmeraldBlue

New Town Theatre (Venue 7)
Fri 2 – Sun 25 Aug 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson

Emerald Blue’s Silence In Court, a courtroom drama at New Town Theatre featuring audience interaction, is an intriguing, involving and thought-provoking piece of theatre.

The set-up is an ingenious one. Charles Brand is accused of rape and, after hearing from him and the alleged victim, it is up to the jury (made up of audience members) to decide on his guilt or otherwise.

This means that the outcome of the play varies from performance to performance. The way writer and director Liam Rudden has arranged it, however, means that what follows is far from simple.

There could be a little unease at the choice of a rape case as the centre of the play. But this is what gives it much of its significance and what makes it such a revealing experience. Anne Kane Howie and Ali Macdougall are so compelling and convincing as the two advocates that the jury’s task of knowing whom to believe is far from straightforward.

Blair Grandison and Lauren Heatherill are excellent as the alleged perpetrator and victim respectively. They are both so adept at improvising that, when faced with the somewhat unorthodox cross-examination by the jury, there is never any observable join between those parts of the performance which are scripted and those that could not conceivably have been.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the whole experience comes from the jury’s reactions. In this case, despite some clever touches in the production which seem designed subtly to subvert the audience’s expectations, it was depressing to see how old-fashioned many of the jury’s concerns turned out to be. Considerations of how the victim was dressed, why a woman was in licensed premises on her own and other such irrelevancies seemed more important than reacting to what had been said.

Reactions based on instinct and gut reaction

While it was undoubtedly the case that the jury members took their duties extremely seriously, what happened seemed to demonstrate how clearly many people’s reactions to such matters seem to be based on instinct and gut reaction rather than the evidence of their eyes and ears. Another audience on another day could have entirely different preoccupations, but the intelligent and thought-provoking nature of the whole experience would surely be the same.

An unnecessary air of theatricality sometimes intrudes. Apparently the set-up draws on many different legal traditions, but at times the dominant tradition seems to be Hollywood. The trick of having an advocate making statements they know to be unacceptable, while waiting for the inevitable cry of ‘objection’, may be a staple of film procedure but would receive short shrift in any real court, and is perhaps overused here. Kerry Hamilton-Nicoll is suitably authoritative as the judge, but her knowingly arch remark about the merits of the jury seems to dissipate the atmosphere rather than enhance it.

It is customary to make some kind of comment about the real stars of such a performance being the audience. However, this would not be true – partly because some seemed seemed to cling doggedly to their prejudices one way or the other rather than thinking for themselves, but mainly because the real star of the show was the magnificent Paul Murray.

First, he was thoroughly believable as the Court Usher, complete with a withering stare for anyone who fell foul of him. As the performance proceeded, he was transformed into a more avuncular moderator of the jury’s deliberations, still utterly in control, in a role that must have been akin to herding cats.

Put aside any preconceptions you may have about courtroom drama or immersive theatre – this is an impressive piece, which is thoroughly recommended.

Running time 1 hour
Run ends Sun 25 August 2013
Daily (not Mon) 4.00 pm and 7.30 pm
Venue 7, new Town Theatre, Freemasons’ Hall, 56 George Street, EH2 3DH
Tickets from:

Performances of Silence in Court will feature the following celebrities as Head Juror this week:
Tuesday  13
4pm: Forth One presenter, King’s panto baddie and co-star of Kiss Me Honey Honey!, Grant Stott
7.30pm: Taggart creator and Killers writer, Glenn Chandler
Wedneday 14
7.30pm: Any Dream Will Do and Joseph star, Keith Jack
Thursday 15
7.30pm: Mrs Brown’s Boys’ Winnie McGoogan, actress Eilish O’Carroll
Friday 16
4pm: Panto and City Lights star and co-star of Kiss Me Honey Honey!, Andy Gray
7.30pm: Emmerdale’s Stephanie Stokes, actress Lorraine Chase.


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