The film The Verdict came to the New Theatre as a stage show and the courtroom thriller made a seamless transition.
It is up to we, the audience, to give the final verdict on whether this adaptation had been a success in its own right away from the film. Judge for yourself – but I was persuaded!
The era depicted the dominance of the Catholic Church’s control over many organisations and institutions, including the press and hospitals resulting in cover ups and bribery to protect the church. The case in question is of a young mother who has remained in a coma for more than 4 years as a result of suspected malpractice during childbirth.
Well known faces Clive Mantle and Jack Shepherd played the leading characters Frank Galvin and Moe Katz respectively and had big steps to fill with Paul Newman and Jack Warden playing the film roles. Mantle took the physically imposing role of Frank with ease as a hard on his luck alcoholic lawyer unable to catch a break. Particularly intense was Mantle and Shepherd exchange over Frank’s refusal to take the financial offer to settle the case out of court and then see the performance begin to take shape.
The ethics of the questionable medical malpractice by the hospital hung over the heads of all involved creating the emotional weight to the performances as the audience followed the twists and turns of the story began to unravel. It was hard not to be moved by the case subject which is still an issue today; although now a rarer occurrence.
An unlikely romance in the form of the mysterious new waitress Donna and Frank began at his local bar, conveying lonely characters looking for comfort in each other. Frank would later come to question Donna’s true feelings as the drama moves to the courtroom. Equally fascinating was watching the ruthless strategy of the defence attorney J. Edward Concannon, played by Peter Harding, in his advising of how to deal with the line of questioning and this hard-ball tactic continued into the courtroom.
The restaurant scene with Judge Eldredge Sweeney played by Richard Walsh was another high point of the show, the cold and clinical nature of business even an extremely sensitive case, and again avoiding bringing shame and scrutiny on the church.
The set design of the courtroom felt very inclusive and created intense cross examination, I definitely think that this type of drama works very well in a theatre setting and would welcome more courtroom drama’s depicted this way.
Over 30 years after this film was originally released, this play adaptation of The Verdict proved that courtroom drama’s are as intense on stage as they are on screen and a very bit as captivating
Until Saturday, February 11