Taking as its main focus the many problems to be found in the current way jury’s are organised in the United Kingdom and attempting to present a solution, the Traverse Theatre’s joint production with renowned and innovative Scottish Theatre company Grid Iron is certainly ambitious and packed with interesting ideas, it is a shame however the shows is a shaky experiment rather the groundbreaking game changer it seems to want to be.
The show takes as its narrative a high profile murder trial, following the journey of a group of jurors, selected from the audience, as they must navigate the confusing, archaic and at times almost contradictory trial process, all the while wondering if a better alternative is possible. The shows greatest strength is the mood that it establishes in the first half, a fantastic set design and wonderful performances by the cast really make you feel like you are immersed in the environment of the court, and the show does not attempt to play to the glamorized image of the criminal justice system we are so often exposed to in the media. Indeed the show uses as many clever theatrical tricks as it can to demonstrate just how boring and confusing the process is for the uninitiated and the consequence this has on the purported ability of the jury to accurately decide the guilt of the accused. At it’s best moments the show is able to balance humour in it’s ability to poke fun at the absurdity of the system whilst showing the real injust the current method fosters and actively encourages.
The good start the show establishes however does not really last past the interval, the second half feels incredibly forced, as the show attempts to address the issues they identified in an incredibly ham fisted way that comes off more like an earnest after school special than a theatrical performance. This isn’t helped by the pacing, which noticeably slows down after the interval and as a consequence the show loses all real sense of tension and dramatic motion which sucks the energy out of the production and leaves you twiddling your thumbs waiting for the end rather excitedly waiting to see what happens next. In addition the division between those who were selected to be on the jury and those who remained in the audience is stark, and it really seems the vast majority of those who paid to see the show are missing out on the full experience only available to those lucky few chosen, and you get the feeling the show would be much better off as a smaller yet much more immersive production.
Ultimately Jury Play is able to achieve much of what it sets out to do in challenging the way we organise juries and that is commendable, it is just a shame it did not completely succeed in translating that into real engagement with the audience it needed to leave a real impression.
Guest Reviewer: Joseph McAulay