St Jude's Players
St Jude's Hall (Grundy Hall)
Until 23 Nov 2019

Review by Brian Godfrey

St Jude’s Players are known for their high quality productions and their latest, “Beyond Reasonable Doubt” leaves one without any doubt, reasonable or otherwise, that their reputation is well deserved.

The play, written in 1987, was famed British author Jeffery Archer’s first. It is a courtroom drama, first and foremost, but delving into issues still pertinent today (maybe more so, but to say more may spoil the suspense) and also examining the complexity of is what we see or hear necessarily the case.

Act One is set in the Old Bailey. Courtroom dramas (especially dealing with English Law) are not easy to stage because they are necessarily wordy, with very little action: vocal inflection needs to be relied upon. Vicky Horwood has risen to the challenge and beaten it on the head with a judge’s gavel and an impeccable sense of direction. She has nine to ten people on stage at any one stage and they all hold our attention at all times. The focus and concentration from all is stunning, but special mention must be made of Jan Rice as the Stenographer who does a magnificent job of both and makes an impact without uttering a word. Another who is excellent at giving non-verbals (especially with his eyes) is Adam Schultz as Junior Counsel, Mr Pierson. Although his ‘hand acting’ in Act One is a little distracting, it settles down in Act Two making for a fairly overall nicely restrained performance.

I mentioned earlier that vocal inflection is a must in courtroom drama, and this production has two of the smoothest, clipped vocal actors one could hope to find in Andrew Horwood as Defense Counsel (and accused) Sir David Metcalfe QC, and Brian Knott as Prosecuting Counsel Sir Anthony Blair-Booth QC. Both actors are strong and their verbal attacks and posturing are nicely spot-on. Knott is so convincing in his characterization that one assumes he studied Law, so precise is his movement and stance.

Horwood portrays the central character and has the lion’s share of the play, and is wonderfully believable in whatever emotion he is delivering. His character is accused of killing his wife who is suffering from Lymphatic Cancer, so Act Two is a flashback leading up to her death allowing the audience to decide his guilt or innocence. This allows us to meet Lady Metcalfe played so elegantly by Joanne St Clair. St Clair is perfection and works excellently with Horwood. Again, a very believable and natural portrayal that allows us to care for both these people.

Andy Winwood and David Rapkin make credible witnesses; John Matsen gives a very good, loving performance as Lionel Hamilton; whilst Julie Quick shines (and almost steals the show) as the housekeeper, Mrs Rogers – a fantastic turn.

Don Oakley’s set design is very clever, allowing a courtroom at the Old Bailey to transform effortlessly into the Metcalfe’s elegant lounge room.

Another high standard production from St Jude’s Players. But don’t take my word for it, go and judge (see what I did there!) for yourself, beyond all reasonable doubt.