The Verdict – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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By Christine Goode, June 2023

If you love a courtroom drama you will love The Verdict, a twisting tale that is captivating from the start.

Although we are not late to our seats, as we arrive we see the curtain rising. On stage is the office of Frank Galvin (Jason Merrels), a lawyer down on his luck struggling with alcohol, marriage and business – his favourite local bar is nearby. If you look closely you can see a pair of legs sticking out from behind the desk – it is obvious Frank did not make it home that night.

As the theatre fills up and people settle in to their seats, Galvin emerges from under the desk and starts to slowly prepare for his day. Unbeknown to him, this will turn out to be the biggest case of his life. Unusually, as we sit in silence watching, and after what seemed to be an age, the lights eventually go down and we follow Frank on this incredible story.

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“Personal demons”

Galvin, now known for his work as an ‘ambulance chaser’ is aided by his long term friend and mentor Moe Katz (Vincent Pirillo), who is now in his seventies, and is desperate to keep Galvin on the straight and narrow. Moe urges Frank to investigate the only case he has on his books.

So Frank meets Mrs McDaid, who wants justice for her daughter, who has been left in a vegetative state following a medical procedure that failed at one of the city’s big Catholic hospitals. Hence, he will be taking on the might of the medical profession and the church itself, facing the best in the business and preparing for the challenge of his life, alongside battling his own personal demons.

The novel, originally written in 1980 by Barry Reed was made into a film in 1982 starring Paul Newman, and is one of the best classic American court room dramas. This new adaptation by Margaret May Hobbs is enthralling and I preferred the play’s ending over the film.

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Jason Merrels portrays Galvin perfectly, his maverick character mixes dashing charm, wit and tardiness along with a caring passion of a once potentially great lawyer, demonstrating respect for his fellow friend and mentor Moe. Vincent Pirillo’s authentic performance as Galvin’s trusted partner is endearing. J. Edgar Concannon, played by Nigel Barbour, gives a commanding performance playing the intimidating lawyer perfectly. Reanne Farley as Donna St Laurent is convincing as she ‘innocently seduces’ Galvin. Richard Walsh’s takes multiple characters, including Bishop Brophy and Eldredge Sweeny, both show stubbornness and wit, and are amusing.

Directed and designed by Michael Lunney, (who also plays multiple characters in the show) he has created an imposing set. It demonstrates an office, typical of the lack of organisation and care that would be expected by Galvin’s character. The bar is classic Irish American, exactly like one would expect to find him propped up in. The courtroom scene in the second half is formidable, with clever, yet uncomplicated changes to represent out-of-court scenes.

The story is gripping, the acting superb and despite the heavy storyline there are welcome moments of levity. This performance is so absorbing you hardly notice (at over 70 minutes per act), this is a long play. Twists and turns make us gasp throughout, which compels us to give rapturous applause and cheers at the end.

‘The Verdict’ is at Bradford Alhambra, 27 June – 1 July


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