Murmuring Judges

Thu 15th – Sat 17th November 2012

reviews

David Naylor

at 00:48 on 16th Nov 2012

1agrees

3disagrees

My experience of watching this play began with an impromptu speech from the director about the nearest fire escapes in St Paul’s church. As the play commenced, I started to wish I’d been paying him more attention. If it wasn’t the murmuring technicians to my left who could sometimes be heard above the voices on stage, it was the acting in front of me that distracted my focus from the events unfolding.

In the second act, one of the lawyers needed a cue to remember his line. “Depth!” was shouted from the other side of the stage, as the actor hurriedly swallowed his panic and regained his composure. The problem is, much like this forgotten line, the play itself lacks the depth of plot to catch the audience’s attention and carry them through to the quiet fizzle of the finale. The play attempts to unveil some of the stigmas surrounding 90’s Britain. For example, it takes a swipe at the injustices and prejudices of the legal system in 90’s England. Indeed, the play starts with the assertion that “policing is largely the fine art of getting through biros”. However, from the completely unexpected gay kiss from one of the police officers at the end of the first act, to the portrayal of the judicial system, the audience never feels like these issues are being totally addressed. Instead, they are merely skimmed over and hinted at, like shadows that avert your gaze and then disappear once more. Most bizarrely of all, we don’t hear another word about the police officer being gay. The passionate kiss we just witnessed is assumed forgotten, and events take place as usual, as if the whole episode never happened. Although this could have been a poignant moment, it instead bordered on the farcical and removed any lingering relationship that the audience could have felt to the characters.

If it wasn’t amnesia that provoked my concern it was the odd choices of music and lighting. Every once in a while classical music would be played whilst the characters on stage went about their business, seemingly unaware of the melody being played in the background. Once the music had subsided, you would forget about it for half an hour, maybe more, until it would emerge like a bad dream again. However, there were some positive choices that were made by the director. The stage was thoughtfully cut into two sides. One, which represented the courtroom and the other, which represented the police station. This gave the stage a fluid platform in which the actors could flow seamlessly from scene to scene. However, the choice to throw a wash of purple light across the stage was unusual and made the space seem more like a sex den than a police station.

Halfway through I realized that the old man sitting behind me had been asleep for the duration of the performance. As the play came to its uninspiring conclusion, I started to wish that I had drifted off too. “If you had a belt you’d kill yourself”, one of the police officers says to the Irish protagonist. By the end, I was happy that I had one nearby.

agree
disagree

Olivia Lace-Evans

at 00:55 on 16th Nov 2012

2agrees

3disagrees

I must admit I came to St Paul’s Church with high expectations. In a period of political instability and social dissatisfaction over the government and legal systems, one would expect this play would ring true for many people in the audience. Though David Hare’s script was very cleverly written and made a number of succinct and amusing social critiques, the production failed to grab the audience’s attention or illustrate the powerful political insinuations of the text.

Unfortunately the acting was unconvincing and there were numerous points where it was evident the actors either did not know their words or, more importantly, did not understand the full implications of what they were saying. Many moments offered to vocalise our social frustrations, with brilliantly scathing lines such as ‘have you let him down, no you’ve let him rot’ regrettably failing to pack the punch it deserved. The actors’ delivery as a whole lacked comic timing and there was very little attempt to vary the tone or delivery of lines, making it impossible for the audience to make a connection with the characters or maintain an interest in the plot. As a result the acting often came across as superficial and the whole production felt somewhat flat.

On the other hand, going from one extreme to the other, there was a bizarre moment where two male characters suddenly kissed out of nowhere taking the whole audience by surprise. This could have been a powerful moment and yet, as there was no sense of dramatic progression or logic, the whole thing felt nonsensical due to the lack of explanation and failed to add any insight into the play. The only character I felt any sympathy or interest for was Sandra, played by Helen K Parker. Her portrayal of a policewoman yearning for justice in a corrupt police administration was subtle and sincere and helped to propel the plot forward. The rest of the cast needed a far greater amount of energy in their performances and required a better knowledge of the subtleties of the text.

The production was not helped by the fragmented timing throughout, with frequent delayed lighting cues and players awkwardly ambling on stage for their scene. It should also be noted that the technical team could be heard throughout the play talking to each other and audibly whispering about upcoming cues. The movements coming on and off stage lacked fluidity and there were reoccurring instances where no one would be on stage. As a result the audience was faced either by an increasingly awkward silence or misplaced classical music blaring for no particular reason. At one point I even heard one of the actresses try to goad another character to remember his entrance by saying half on stage, half off ‘oh, I wonder where Dave is, he should be here’. Admittedly this was hilarious, but much in the same way as seeing someone fall over – it’s painful to watch yet you can’t help but laugh. As a whole the direction felt jarring and static and needed a far quicker pace to create a better energy within the play.

Though it should be acknowledged that this was an amateur production, and that they gave a good attempt despite their non-professional backgrounds, I left feeling slightly deflated by the experience. There was so much potential with the text and there were a number of characters that could have had a beautiful complexity. The production failed to bring this script to life and the acting needed to be pushed far more to really spark the audience’s interest and give the characters the depth that they needed.

agree
disagree

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