Writerr: Terence Frisby
Director: James Larkin
Reviewer: Flip Miller
The Public Reviews Rating:
At the beginning of the play the plot is very succinctly laid out. James Highwood, played my Tom Conti, a television journalist is on trial, at the Old Bailey, for the murder of his nine month old son. As the policeman, played by the “far too handsome to be a policeman”, Shaun Morton, gives evidence the bias of the audience, who are addressed as the Jury, is heavily weighted for a guilty of murder verdict against Highwood.
As Highwood calls his only witness the reasons for his actions become clear. It is amazing how one detail can change the course of a plot and the sympathies of the audience.
The beginning of the play starts much the same as in a certain sitcom with the clanging of a prison door you half expect a booming voice to say “Norman Stanley Fletcher”. Then the lights go up and the action begins.
At first when you see the robust court room set you wonder how there is going to be any other action and how the wife, Jean Highwood, played by Carol Starks would be introduced into the play. Then the lights went down and the walls were slid out from their hiding place within the set and hey presto instant prison cell. It has to be said that sometimes the walls did wobble but the action within the cell was too interesting to be distracted by it.
The attention to detail was very evident during these scenes. Although not directly involved in the scene and probably not visible to most of the audience the cell door was always opened by a police officer in uniform. For those of the audience that were on the sides of the seating you could still see the Judge, played by Royce Mills. Again, despite not being part of the action he remained in character throughout.
Mills at times lacked the gravitas of a High Court Judge. He appeared not to be able to keep Conti’s character in control. The character did appear to be balanced and unbiased both to the prosecution, Margaret Casely, played very professionally by Elizabeth Payne and to Highwood defending himself.
Starks put in a very creditable performance as the grieving mother. Although, we are told that she is the dominant half of the partnership but you don’t get this from her performance. Her projection was a little quiet at times it was difficult to hear her.
Conti was utterly believable as James Highwood. His scenes with Starks at first seemed a bit at odds with the picture that had been painted of them being a loving couple. Then you realise in true dramatic style this was just down to a misunderstanding and they stand united, together for the final scene.
It is hard to believe but despite this being a very serious and dark subject matter there were plenty of laughs. The comic timing from all the actors was perfect.
The story was very fast paced and the two hours soon flew by. This is a play that you could see run into a series. There are so many questions that need to be answered and a moral dilemma to be resolved that you are left wanting more.
In the end justice was served – but was it the right verdict?
Runs until Saturday 20th October and then touring
Rough Justice– Arts Theatre, Cambridge,