The Court

Aug 14 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆    Interactive

Hill Street Theatre (Venue 41): Thu 4 – Sun 27 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

In another of those open-ended court cases where the verdict is up for grabs, Edinburgh Little Theatre’s The Court provides a thought-provoking, carefully constructed hour.

That Cathy McDonald (Hazel Murray) smothered her terminally ill mother is not up for debate. The only question is whether it was murder, as her sister Mary (Norma Brown) alleges, or a mercy killing.

Paul Murray and Hazel Murray in The Court. Pic Torya Winters

The nine-strong jury are drawn from the audience and reach their own verdict, with the rest of the spectators able to chip in. Presided over by Alan Ireby’s no-nonsense judge, the two counsels – Linda Thomson and Torya Winters – question the suspect and the witness assiduously. The acting is strong, with Murray’s accused murderer particularly well drawn.

The whole thing is controlled by director and court clerk Paul Murray, who marshals the audience (including any who are labouring under the delusion that everyone else is there to see them) with skill. There is also the odd welcome injection of humour, although the fact that this is at its heart this remains a serious look at the subject of euthanasia is never forgotten.

US screen drama

As always, the format of the court case owes as much to people’s expectations derived from US screen drama as any reality. However, in a case explicitly set in Edinburgh, there are things that would throw anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with Scots law – such as the validity or otherwise of a signed will, or the ability to cut children out of said will. Then there is the whole set up, with the jury told to decide between murder and ‘manslaughter’ – a verdict unknown in Scotland.

Linda Thomson and Norma Brown in The Court. Pic Torya Winters

Much like the requirement by the jury to cross-examine (which, as the judge admits, is ‘highly irregular’, this is obviously done in order to be recognisable and inclusive to the largest number in the audience.

In the end, that audience is the focus. As so often, some are extremely diligent, while others seem incapable of listening, relying instead on prejudice and gut feeling.

There are plenty of productions this year that directly call on the audience to empathise and extrapolate, and Ireby’s judge asks the jury to ‘think before asking questions’. Some, clearly, however, have made up their mind already.

Which is one of the many salutary lessons to be drawn from an instructive and entertaining hour.

Running time: One hour (no interval)
Hill Street Theatre
(Dunedin Theatre), 19 Hill St, EH2 3JP (Venue 41)
Thursday 4 – Sunday 27 August 2023
Daily at 12 noon
Tickets and details Book here 

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Twitter: @edlittletheatre

Torya Winters and Hazel Murray in The Court. Pic Torya Winters.


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