Moe and Frank

Jack Shepherd as Moe and Clive Mantle as Frank

The Verdict

Malvern Theatres


THIS courtroom drama made its mark as a novel well before being turned into an Oscar nominated Sidney Lumet movie starring Paul Newman.

So with that in mind, this world premier stage adaptation by Middle Ground Theatre Company has set itself a tough act to follow.

Opening a national tour at Malvern Theatres, there's a roll call of well- known actors from TV in the line-up.

Predominantly there's Clive Mantle (Dr Mike Barratt in Casualty and Holby City) and Laurence Olivier Theatre Award winner Jack Shepherd, who became a household name after playing DS Charles Wycliffe in detective drama Wycliffe.

It’s a powerful story by Barry Reed in the John Grisham vein centred around Frank Galvin (Mantle) who is a drunk lawyer in Boston handed a medical malpractice case that no-one thinks he can win.

Even from before the play starts, the scene is being set with Galvin lying on the stage floor and waking up from a boozy night as the audience fill their seats. It's a good idea to set the scene.

We soon see a drunken Galvin get caught up in the case of a young pregnant woman left in a coma by doctors at a Catholic Church owned hospital in 1970's America.

Turning down an out of court settlement thinking he can get justice for a negligence cover-up, he turns to his mentor Moe, a superb Jack Shepherd doing some fine character acting.

He has a fantastic buddy chemistry with Mantel, who gives a bold and charismatic performance.

Mantel commanded the stage until the opening scene of the Second Act, when he forgot some of his lines and asked for a prompt. I'll put it down to first night jitters as the rest of his performance was excellent.

Both of these leading actors have pretty decent American accents too.

Adapted to stage by Margaret May Hobbs, she keeps the action moving swiftly while also maintaining plenty of emotion involving Galvin's own back story.

There are some twists and sensations in court and this play did manage to pull at the heart strings.

While the First Act moves between Galvin's legal office and a bar where he befriends a new barmaid, the Second Act changes scene and scenery dramatically into the courtroom.

The supporting cast is especially strong and there's some fantastic court shenanigans between Galvin and the judge, played by Richard Walsh, who also plays Bishop Brophy. He makes both roles stand out in different ways. He's come a long way since starring as Sicknote in London's Burning.

Veronica Quilligan as nurse Mary Rooney also stood out as a hospital worker caught between a rock and a hard place while Walsall actor Tom Roberts (Emerdale, Coronation Street, Doctors) plays an arrogant surgeon who believes he is infallible.

The Verdict is a satisfying courtroom drama with a lot of soul and a fine cast that you won't want to miss. To 28-01-17.

Alison Brinkworth

The national tour reaches Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre from 2 - 6 May.

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