King's Theatre Edinburgh (venue)
30 April 2019 (released)
01 May 2019
What price the truth? Over the next few days, prospective audiences at Edinburgh’s prestigious King’s Theatre are about to find out. Based on director Sidney Lumet’s highly acclaimed 1982 courtroom thriller starring Paul Newman, this utterly arresting stage production by the Middle Ground Theatre Company Ltd ticks all the right boxes!
Boston, USA, in November 1980: washed-up and alcoholic attorney Frank Gavin has seen better days. Reduced to taking on ‘small fry’ cases after an incident involving the Jury some years earlier, he seems to have more debts than new cases. Things are about to change, however, when he decides to take on one particularly tragic case involving an Irish woman called Deborah Ann Doherty who, during childbirth at the Catholic St Catherine Labour Hospital, was given the wrong anaesthetic – a fatal error that left the woman in a vegetative state with no hope of recovery. How could such a mistake happen? Mrs. McDaid, the mother of ‘Debbie’ is a deeply religious person and looks upon the incident as ‘an act of God’ – nonetheless she is keen to provide Debbie with all the necessary round-the-clock care in the world (even contemplating to have her transferred back home) for which the family would need money. This is where Frank comes into the picture, as he is supposed to secure a satisfactory sum and bring the negligence case to a close. Bishop Brophy of the Dioscese of Boston offers a ‘settlement’ of $300,000 which might look like a huge sum to Mrs. McDaid, but Frank sees it more like a ‘bribe’ in a case which still leaves more questions open than answered. To the Bishop’s disappointment and to Mrs. McDaid’s fury, Frank refuses the offered settlement and instead decides to dig a little deeper…especially after having visited Debbie in hospital. Something simply doesn’t feel right here: how is it possible that a hospital such as St Catherine Labour, with its excellent track record, could have made such a mistake in the delivery room?
As Frank soon is about to find out, digging deeper and therefore digging up some carefully concealed dirt is easier said than done as he doesn’t seem to get much help with the exception of Moe Katz, a 75-year old attorney and Frank’s mentor. Whenever life is particularly difficult, as it is now, Frank likes to drown his sorrows in Meehan’s Bar, his local watering hole. Over small talk with owner Eugene and a glass (or two or three or four) of whiskey, he can escape reality at least temporarily. One day an attractive young woman called Donna St Laurent walks into the bar applying for a job as a barmaid. Gradually Frank and Donna strike up a romantic tete-a-tete over his next few visits to the bar, even going so far that Donna takes him home to her place one night – despite Frank being a married man with almost grown up children. Clearly, Donna is no Irish Catholic… in fact, she isn’t at all what she pretends to be as Frank will soon find out…
Still trying to score the record settlement sum of a gobsmacking 5 million bucks, things begin to look bleak for Frank: his ‘star witness’ – the main anaesthetist during Debbie’s birth in the delivery room, has suddenly disappeared. Well, not really… he too was bribed and temporarily left the country. Dr. Crowley M.D. – Doctor at St Catherine Labour Hospital – is also not quite willing to reveal what really happened, in fact, J. Edgar Concannon – attorney at law representing the defence, advices him that he doesn’t have to lie but the truth can be ‘altered’ by carefully choosing the right words… Also aboard the Defendant team are Dr. Towler M.D. and Mary Rooney, head nurse at the hospital who insists that “We did all we could to save Deborah Ann Doherty”. Despite the odds, Frank manages to finally come up with an expert witness for the plaintiff: Lionel Thompson MD. And so the showdown concerning Case Nr. 108 at the County of Suffolk Court Boston is ready to kick off. Just when Frank and his team representing the plaintiff seem to battle a lost cause, a surprise twist in the shape of Natalie Stampanatto, a former admissions nurse for St Catherine Labour Hospital, reveals a bombshell… and Donna makes a surprise appearance in Court!
A true nailbaiter this, and we won’t reveal the outcome nor the twists in this dramatic production which is extremely well cast (some cast members double) and well performed. The main players in particular are superb, led by Ian Kelsey who must have learned god knows how many pages of text for his ‘Frank Galvin’. Denis Hill as his attorney buddy and mentor ‘Moe Katz’ offers the stabilising pole to Frank’s inner turmoil, spiked with some Yiddish wit, while Okon Jones as ‘Lionel Thompson MD’ reminds of Morgan Freeman. On the lady front we see a feisty performance from Josephine Rogers as ‘Donna’ while Anne Kavanagh strikes the right balance between justice and deeply religious beliefs in her portrayal as Mrs. McDaid.
The clever set design displays the appropriate atmosphere while the Celtic-themed incidental music, including ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ (courtesy of Lynette Webster), offers the right amount of melancholy.
A highly competent production not to be missed!
THE VERDICT runs until Sat 4th of May.
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