So many questions..?
Terence Frisby has acted as a litigant-in-person himself. He has tried to defend himself in court. This experience, perhaps has led to the excellent play ‘Rough Justice’. His play explores the dynamic of the closed shop that is the British Legal system. He has not, however, used his own cases for this play. Rather, he has taken a separate controversial issue and used that as a vehicle to allow the audience to question the due legal process.
James Highwood, played expertly by the experienced Tom Conti, stands on trial for the murder of his disabled son. He tries to defend himself whilst being cross-examined by the equally articulate Margaret Casely (Elizabeth Payne). Payne’s portrayal of the prosecution barrister is a perfect foil for Conti’s character. The umpire in the proceedings is of course the Judge (Benjamin Whitrow) who seems to provide the audience with a number of ironic laughs.
Highwood is not totally on his own in the trial as he has his solicitor in court (David Michaels) and his wife (Carol Starks), but both are unable to have much of a say in the proceedings as due legal process takes its course. Director James Larkin has enabled both of these characters a chance to vent their frustrations as the drama unfolds.
This is no whodunnit play. We are asked to consider if murder is ever acceptable. Is it prudent to defend oneself? Can a publicly well known individual ever get a fair trial? Is the legal system a closed shop full of wigs and identical qualifications? Should we know more about the background of the judge and the barristers? Are trials a game that is played between legal representatives and the defendant a mere spectator? Should the jury go out on a limb and ignore the judges summing up?
The production at times feels like a gripping boxing match but no one seems able to score the knock out blow. It kept the audience on the edge of their seats without resorting to unnecessary clichés.
Rough Justice is on until the 5th October and tickets can be bought in person at the theatre box office or online at http://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/
Words: Stephen Oliver