Writer: Martin Murphy
Director: Amy Allen
“As many intervals as you like!” boasts North London’s Park Theatre in the publicity for this World Premier streaming of Martin Murphy’s play. This may come as good news for some, but better news for most is that the hour-long production is sufficiently gripping to make zero intervals the likely norm.
The play was developed by the theatre’s Script Class, working with director Amy Allen, over 10 weeks during lockdown. Its premise is that the backlog of cases awaiting trials in the courts has become so great due to the pandemic that they must be heard by juries based in their homes, using Zoom. To this end, eight women and four men assemble remotely, presided over by foreperson Mel (Jacquie Cassidy), acting like a bossy headmistress as she munches on her soggy sandwiches.
We witness just the jury’s deliberations, not the full proceedings, so we are not asked to arrive at our own verdicts and this is not a suspense thriller in the mould of Twelve Angry Men, it is a socially observant comedy. The case concerns a successful white professional woman who is accused of sexually assaulting an under-age black boy and then paying substantial hush money to his family. The accusations are chosen cleverly to bring out the prejudices and ignorances of individual jury members and maybe the audiences.
Anya (Sara Odeen-Isbister) is a world weary Ukrainian who sides with the accused, Jal (Stefania Jardim) relates everything to the chips on her own shoulders, while many others are more concerned with solving the mysteries of Zoom and social media than those of the case before them. Gender politics, drug addiction and age divides all feature in the lively discussions, with Allen cutting rapidly between the jury members to give the production a pacy feel.
Strangely, no males under the approximate age of 60 serve on this jury, but, otherwise, Murphy captures the chaos that ensues when a broad cross section of society gathers together, all seeing nothing from the same perspective. As a snapshot of our divided United Kingdom, the play is sharply relevant and very funny.
Available here until 2 September 2020