Book: Amy Fletcher
Music and Lyrics: Ashley M A Walsh
Director: Joseph Meighan
Reviewer: Abbie Rippon
The Jury premieres this week at the Brindley Theatre in Runcorn, a brand new musical exploring human behaviour and how a person’s life experience impacts their judgements. Set in a jury deliberation room, twelve people from various walks of life consider and debate whether a crime might be considered murder or self-defence, unravelling all of their lives in the process.
The show has been workshopped and rehearsed for a brief period of three weeks; this is no mean feat when you consider that hit musicals like Cats were workshopped for months on end. So how does The Jury compare? It’s pretty good. The first half is particularly strong, the characters engaging; the book includes a good mix of humour, pathos and intrigue. It comes across as a true reflection of how such an eclectic mix of people might react and interact when thrown into a high-pressure situation. Yes it’s a bit clunky, it could be a little more polished, however, this should be considered a musical in progress and it has potential to go far.
With some excellent singers in the cast showcasing Ashley M A Walsh’s score, The Jury includes fantastic choral sections, including exceptional chromatic harmonies and a cappella sections. Some songs would have benefitted from more memorable hook lines, and many seemed to peter out without definitive endings. The listener’s opinion on this will depend on their taste when it comes to musical theatre.
Bethany Grace as housewife Deborah brings humour and panache to her performance, encouraging the jurors with her song ‘Let’s Play A Game’ where she attempts to get to the bottom of the case through role play. Tim Sanderson and Laura Coard as lecturer Simon and social worker Sarah keep the jurors in line demonstrating intelligence and empathy throughout the performance. Benjamin Cupit as CEO Darren, and Jake Hankey as builder Andrew lock horns as family men with very different outlooks and beliefs, their conflict is truthful and their performances worthy of note.
The first act is an engaging analysis of human nature, however, the second act seems to lose its way a little. The stories become more farfetched and by trying to cram so many epic life stories into a two-hour musical means that each can’t be given the stage time it deserves to explore it fully.
On the proscenium stage at The Brindley, the performance feels a little detached and distant. This show would feel more intimate in a studio space, in thrust or in-the-round to allow the audience to feel more like a fly on the wall. However, director Joseph Meighan has worked well with the space provided, maintaining a lot of the realism and feeling of claustrophobia you would find in the melting pot that is a deliberation room. Joseph Thomas’s lighting design is simple but stunning. Working with the mood of each musical number emulating the characters emotion and the turmoil one must feel when deliberating a man’s fate.
This is a show with huge potential exploring everything from gender politics to mental health; it is both heart-warming and distressing yet still has a sense of humour. If you can get to the Brindley this weekend, support this show. Support new writing, support up-and-coming talent and come to your own verdict.
Runs until Saturday 21 July 2018 | Image: Contributed