Someone to Blame is such a play. Written by Tess Berry-Hart using extracts from interviews and written sources it tells the true case of Sam Hallam, a 17-year-old boy from Islington, who in October 2004 was tried and convicted of the brutal murder of Essayas Kassahun. Two unreliable eye-witnesses were looking for “just someone to blame on the spot, really” and Sam turned out to be that person, even though he was not even near the place of crime at the time.
David Mercatali’s direction is quick-paced and strong. It starts with a violent flashback of the crime and a look into Sam’s life, told by the characters themselves with each scene then acted out. One side of the stage is held by campaginer Paul May (Keith Hill) who acts as Narrator, informing us about the facts of the crime and the injustice of the legal system in Sam’s case. He knits the play together and underlines the story with an engaging and passionate account.
Robin Crouch as Sam Hallam reveals a sensitive, vulnerable boy, giving a distinguished yet subtle portrayal of a youth who cannot handle this situation. We're immediately on his side. The other actors play several differing parts from scruffy east London youths to high court officials. Sam’s mother (Debra Baker) is the kind of weak and timid woman who grows stronger in time but is incapable of dealing with her son at first. Alexander Gatehouse plays a direct, no-nonsense lawyer on whose wrong side one does not want to be, especially in the very disturbing interrogation scene. Vincent Jerome is a thoroughly convincing London youth.
Someone to Blame leaves us with a sense of urgency, frustration and anger, raising relevant questions about the incapability of our legal system concerning the slowness of direct investigation by the police. And, as Sam’s case is still continuing (with a retrial due in May), the play provides an important demonstration of the ability of theatre to react quickly to current events.
- Fleur Poad