Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Jury Play

Traverse Theatre

October 2017

Nearly three and a half years in the making, Jury Play is based on a Phd dissertation by the legal academic Dr Jenny Scott which argues that in the current justice system the jury are not enabled to fully participate in the trial.

For Jury Play, co-written by Ben Harrison and Jenny Scott, Traverse One is transformed into a court room with live jury selection of audience members at the start of the show. Act One takes us through an interminable 52 day trial where we see the jury, at first excited and engaged, viewing the trial through the prism of the TV courtroom drama, gradually becoming disengaged and deadened. The lack of natural light, the background buzz, the static of the carpets, the mumbling, the use of arcane and often Latin language, the evidence presented in an illogical order, all contribute to the failure of the jury to engage. Add to the that the impossible instruction by the Judge to disregard anything the jury members might have seen about the case on the internet, TV, newspapers and radio, and the fact that many jury members are panicking about their loss of earnings and pressure of family life, and you have a perfect storm where miscarriages of justice can all too easily prevail.

A stellar cast, led by the legendary John Bett as the Judge, stage a revolution in justice co-led by Juror 15, played by Helen Mackay, as together they begin to break down the boundaries, the architecture and the norms of a system which has essentially gone unchallenged for centuries. A stunning set by Emily James perfectly captured the atmosphere of the modern courtroom, with beautiful and evocative sound and music by David Paul Jones, lighting by Paul Claydon and video by Lewis den Hertog. The production completely sold out Traverse One within a few days of tickets going on sale.

Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman

an exciting, witty and thrillingly open-ended piece of drama about what we mean by justice, and how we can achieve something closer to it; presented with all the flair, elegance and sense of spectacle that is Grid Iron’s hallmark.

Thom Dibdin, The Stage

The show is a prime example of theatre as a driver of social change and a place for popular debate…The trial, presided by John Bett in particularly dry mode as the judge and overseen by the perfectly pernickety and officious Sean Hay as the court Macer, is not courtroom drama, however. As the days whir by and turn into months, Mary Gapinski and Kirstin Murray’s sharply supercilious lawyers for the defence and prosecution rehearse their arguments, ad nauseum. The jurors, by now subsumed into the performance, becoming increasingly, bored, alienated and disassociated from the proceedings. If the first half belongs to Gapinski and Murray, Bett steps out to take control of his court in the second. Playing on planted juror Helen Mackay’s inner fears, he rearranges the court, bringing an altogether lighter, more transparent and less combative style – while examining the baggage, both metaphorical and literal, the jurors bring with them…a fascinating and provocative event, not to mention an object lesson in how to handle an immersive audience.

Neil Cooper, The Herald

an eminently playful set of exchanges between the seven-strong cast that attempt to breakdown hierarchical structures propagated by Mary Gapinski and Kirstin Murray’s barristers in order to make more everyday sense, both for those on trial and the bored and distracted jurors. The end result is fascinatingly drawn out fanfare for the common man and woman that puts the judicial system in the dock and finds it wanting.’

Justine Blundell, Edinburgh

Making a piece of theatre as dull as a day in a courtroom while maintaining an audience’s engagement is not easy to pull off. It helps that John Bett, as the Judge, is highly entertaining even when delivering ponderous tediousness, but this intriguing play gets you thinking and raises important questions for which there are, as yet, no answers.

Becca Inglis, The Wee Review

Grid Iron keep up a meticulous attention to detail throughout. Prior to the performance, we receive an email inviting us to court and detailing a dress code. When we arrive, we walk through a metal detector and are handed a guide to jury service (or, the play’s programme). Pre-recorded dialogue gives us an insight into each juror’s thoughts, most of whom are preoccupied with worries about childcare, cigarette breaks, or the rare macabre details that break up an otherwise long and boring case. These voiceovers drown out the barristers’ speeches, showing how by not catering to the jury’s needs the evidence presented risks being missed or misinterpreted. Projections on the back of the stage demonstrate how our digital age warps and complicates the legal process…We see how in a society where we are constantly connected to the news by our devices, contempt of court is unavoidable. The legal system is in this way not fit for purpose in the modern world.