Murmuring Judges opens with the line: ‘'God is there anything slower in this world than a lawyer'’, a statement that gets a great laugh but takes on a bleaker meaning throughout the play.
The play details the trajectory of a young man, Gerard McKinnon (played skilfully and heart-wrenchingly by Joe Shalom) who has turned to getaway driving to make ends meet for his young family, and as a consequence is sentenced to five years in prison.
From Gerard’s sentencing, the worlds of the police, the judicial system and prisons start to collide, with Gerard’s story unravelling the complicated threads of police corruption, judicial disinterest and the grim mentality of the prison system.
The ADC stage is used to full effect to simultaneously render the sparsity of a prison cell, the bustle of a police station and the stale interior of a lawyer’s office. Gerard is consistently placed at the highest level of the two tier structure that occupies the bulk of the stage, and his frantic energy is the constant backdrop of the bureaucratic proceedings that operate below him. The staging is most affecting when the accused, Gerard is on parallel with his accuser, the corrupt police officer, Barry, portrayed boldly by Jack Parham. They seem interchangeable in this moment when they both explain their trouble. Gerard to Irina, played by Kate Reid who perfectly portrays the downtrodden female lawyer struggling to make it in a man’s world, and Barry to Sandra, his girlfriend/work colleague played with integrity by Sophia Flohr.
The alienating scenes involving barristers are purposefully directed by Will Bishop, with trivial rivalries being set against the backdrop of champagne dinners, serving to demonstrate the elitist, middle class detachment in the judicical system perfectly, with the pompous Sir Peter (portrayed expertly by Tom Chamberlain) completely embodying this type.
The costumes are very impressive, with the barristers’ robes being well mimicked with formal gowns and the police officers’ outfits being very realistic. The sound and lighting replicate the police sirens and red and blue lighting and this is used purposefully to juxtapose the action with the inaction of the police service.
The racial, national and gendered prejudices of the police system are touched upon lightly, and though these issues aren’t at the forefront of the play, they pulse throughout, driving the scenes onwards. I recommend Murmuring Judges to all who like a challenge, as it leaves its audience with much to think on after leaving the play.