A man admits to killing his nine month old baby. Is it murder? Manslaughter? The child was brain damaged, does that matter? Can a TV personality, on a quest with a point to prove, turn the law system on its head?
This courtroom drama, helmed by Tom Conti as the accused personality James Highwood, certainly kept the near capacity audience enthralled on the tour’s final stop at the Oxford Playhouse.
James Larkin’s production resembles a finely tuned machine, every move deliberate with all waste eliminated. Nothing is here for the sake of it. This left a thoroughly engaging evening, hurtling along at decent speed throughout.
Tom Conti is at more than definitely at home here, portraying the moral high ground whilst rallying against the age old systems of the judiciary. Carol Starks gives almost a nursing quality to his wife, arguably doing justice to one of the toughest roles of the evening.
The Judge, Royce Mills, seems to serve the play for light relief half the time, this is unfortunate as no judge in the realm would legitimately act in the way this character does – however, for dramatic effect, certain etiquettes and practices have been dumped by the wayside.
Casely (Elizabeth Payne) and Ackroyd (David Michaels) served the prosecution and defence respectively, both provided perfectly adequate, if sometimes passive, creations.
The text itself feels as current today as it did in 1994, the story, with all its twists and turns, is completely relevant in a 21st century context. Potentially more so, euthanasia is in the news regularly.
Was Highwood guilty of murder? No matter what the jury in the production decide, the audience on Monday were thoroughly undecided. It is truly remarkable how different opinions and viewpoints were upon leaving the venue from one person to the next.