The Verdict is a courtroom drama, performing at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham between 21st and 25th February. Impact’s Poppy Read-Pitt attended on Tuesday night, and reviews.
5 minutes before the play is scheduled to start, Jason Merrels as Frank Galvin crawls out from under the desk on the stage. The house lights are still on as Galvin wanders around the stage in a shabby undershirt and suit trousers, binning beer bottles and taking a drink from a bottle of whiskey that he retrieves from his desk drawer.
Before any dialogue is spoken, the audience learns a great deal about the central character, who is about to take up 2 and a half hours of our time. We learn he’s an alcoholic, down on his luck, on the outs with his wife and family, and despite all of this, is clearly exceptionally charismatic, extracting laughs from the audience before the lights even go down.
Genuinely moving without feeling trite
This opening sequence sets us up well for what proves to be a readily enjoyable play: its subject matter is genuinely moving without feeling trite- a hard line to walk given the emotional twists (which I won’t spoil, you’ll have to go and see it), and serious context.
The cast are all generally impressive, bar a few dodgy accents, but the real standout has to be Jason Merrels, whose likeability the success of this play really depends upon. His stint as a washed-up lawyer with a heart of gold could have read as tired or cliché, given how many times we’ve seen this trope before. But the charm and warmth Merrels breaths into the character allows the moderately unlikable character of Frank Gavin to access the empathy the empathy he is warranted.
Tragic this play is
The audience was charmed by the gentle humour of the production, all without feeling like it handles the tense subject matter inappropriately, or as if they’ve just been smacked in the face by tragedy. And tragic this play is. Set against the backdrop of Boston in the 1970s, The Verdict explores generational trauma, alcoholism, and corruption.
The production has a slightly slow set up – the whole of the first half is basically prefacing the second half – but once you reach its second half, it all seems worth it. It’s riveting, and despite the possibility for the play to stray into cliché, given it’s well-trodden subject matter and trope, it never does.
The twists – of which there are many – keep the audience engaged and on the edge of their seats. A performance certainly worth checking out.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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