Barry Reed, adapted by Margaret May Hobbs
Middle Ground Theatre Company
Grand Theatre, Blackpool
In even the crowded field of American courtroom dramas, The Verdict remains a frontrunner.
The especially adversarial nature of the US legal system, wrapped around a medical negligence case—one in which a belligerent anti-hero lawyer confronts his own demons—made it a hit novel before becoming a highly-regarded film, starring Paul Newman, James Mason and Charlotte Rampling.
So every credit that it should fall to Malvern-based Middle Ground Theatre Company to be the first to stage its theatre adaptation. There’s certainly nothing middling about its large and accomplished cast, or the hefty stage design for a touring production.
There’s also no shortage of drama everywhere you look in a story about a near washed-up lawyer taking on the Church, Medicine, the Judiciary and Anyone Else who gets in his way. Neither is there a shortage of plot, dialogue or characters to digest, although the programme helpfully includes a rogues’ gallery of the latter.
This adaptation, by Margaret May Hobbs, differs from the David Mamet screenplay slightly, but still speaks truth to power in time-honoured fashion. The first act builds up story and characters, across a range of Boston locations, while the second act is pretty well rooted to the courtroom climax, one in which the audience are addressed directly as the jury. A cast member helpfully steps up as jury forewoman from the stalls...
The acting is uniformly authentic throughout with soap star Ian Kelsey in the central role of Frank Galvin, heading a cast of many other familiar TV faces. Every cameo role is given high definition by director and designer Michael Lunney, who also doubles up as two of the support characters.
He founded Middle Ground just over 30 years ago and without their efforts a lot of UK theatre would be missing out on professional productions of such calibre.