BWW Review: BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT at St. Jude's Anglican Church Hall

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BWW Review: BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT at St. Jude's Anglican Church HallReviewed by Fiona Talbot-Leigh, Thursday 14th November 2019.

A couple in love, a verdict of murder, but who is to blame? This is the underlying question that persists through this wonderful portrayal of Beyond Reasonable Doubt, presented by St Jude's Players. This fine piece of theatre is acclaimed author Jeffrey Archer's first stage play from 1987. Archer seamlessly went from writing fiction novels to stage plays and the effect is just like sitting down with a good thriller in hand, except that it's all played out for you in under two hours by a very competent cast.

Sir David Metcalfe, a distinguished QC, is in the fight of his life as he makes the decision to represent himself in his own murder trial. Metcalfe's terminally ill wife has died at home and her husband has been accused of her death. His ability to defend himself is fraught by his housekeeper's version of events, as well as the statements from Lady Metcalfe's doctor, her solicitor, as well as the detective on the case. This all makes for very interesting dialogue as the opening scene is that of the trial at the Old Bailey.

Brian Knott, who plays Mr. Anthony Blair Booth QC, a long term adversary of the defendant, is an absolute scene-stealer. He completely embodies his role and his booming voice and natural delivery steered the court scenes beautifully and had me hanging off his every word. Andrew Horwood is very competent in his role as Sir David as he has the weight of the world on his shoulders trying to proclaim his innocence.

Another aspect that adds to the drama onstage is that, once the court is called into session, it is clear from the way that the audience is addressed by the judge played most convincingly by David Lockwood, that we are in fact not just audience but the actual jury. This feeling of inclusion breaks down the fourth wall in such a way that actors and audience are as one. I felt more drawn in and paid more attention to all that unfolded before me, for fear I would prejudge and not think fairly upon the prosecuted.

Interval happens just as the verdict is to be revealed and Act 2 opens in the Metcalfe's lounge room. We are taken back in time before the trial, where we get to meet the elusive Lady Metcalfe and, what's more, be a fly on the wall to see just how she relates to her husband.

Veteran actor, Joanne St. Clair, is a breath of fresh air. She gives just the right depth to Lady Metcalfe, and the following scenes flow with ease and grace as St Clair brings new life to this sorry tale. An interesting dinner party takes place and it is the character of Mrs. Rogers, the Metcalfe's housekeeper, played by Julie Quick, which keeps the pace of this scene up. Quick played this role perfectly, her accent along with her facial expressions kept the audience in no doubt as to how she felt about her Lady's husband.

All in all, this was a very good production of a well-written play. Vicky Horwood has pulled together a strong cast and Don Oakley's set must be mentioned, as well as Jill Wheatley's costumes. Both came together well to complement the actors, making the overall look very timely and effective.

St Jude's Players are celebrating their 71st year together and if you want a good night out with a real sense of community then don't hesitate to get out and support this company. You will be warmly welcomed at the door. Mum's the word for the verdict so as not to spoil it for those coming along.

Photography, Les Zetlein

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