Printable CopyREASONABLE DOUBT
STARC Productions
Bakehouse Theatre
Until 22 Sep 2018

Review by John Wells

Two strangers circle around each other in a fancy hotel room. But they are not quite strangers. They were thrown together two years before, when they both served on a jury. Anna passionately believed the accused was guilty. Mitchell was resolute in accepting the accused’s story. Mitchell managed to massage another wavering juror into seeing his point-of-view, and the jury was hung. The accused remained in legal limbo, neither acquitted nor convicted, and was put on trial again. Now, as the new trial grinds to its conclusion, Mitchell and Anna meet. They dredge up past mysteries and attractions, questioning who they were then, and who they have become.

Suzie Miller’s play has an intriguing set-up, which puts the audience deliciously off-balance. Why are they together in a hotel room? What is the tension between them? What are the secrets they hold from the trial? We don’t quite understand their respective motivations or agendas, and the initial teasing out of Mitchell and Anna’s back-stories, and new insights, is bracingly good theatre. At its best, “Reasonable Doubt” is a well-crafted and taut play with interesting explorations of identity, obsession, regret and the way we present very different faces to the world. But the script soon loses its bite. The writing is uneven and inconsistent. The characterisations jump about, leading to some odd shifts of tone and narrative. This leads to confusion – why is she doing that? Why is that happening? Surely he would have known that? – and means the action frequently does not ring true. There are some great dramatic changes of gear, but too many mudded and illogical moments. The strong scenes are undermined by some equally weak and inexplicable ones.

Director Tony Knight keeps the forward momentum hurtling along briskly and brings out telling emotional flashes. He is assisted by a strong and confident duo; performers Stefanie Rossi and Marc Clement give capable, sustained portrayals that rise above the unbalanced text and reveal some of each character’s complexity. (Rossi is the James Brown of Adelaide theatre – the hardest working gal in showbiz – excelling in show after show this year.) She manages to be convincingly vulnerable, manipulative and sensual. Clement is diffident, cold, forthright, and mysterious. They have an assured ease and palpable chemistry on stage. This is skilled and relaxed acting.

“Reasonable Doubt” is fitfully engaging and fascinating, but is weakened by the textual flaws. STARC Productions should be commended for bringing a new Australian play to Adelaide audiences.