Middle Ground Theatre Company are currently bringing Barry Reed’s novel and The Oscar nominated, critically acclaimed Film, The Verdict, to the stage. Directed and designed by Michael Lunney, adapted by Margaret May Hobbs and starring Ian Kelsey. Starting out in October 1988, the company are now one of the most prolific and acclaimed theatre companies in the UK, with over 40 productions brought to life on the stage.
The Verdict follows washed up, failing and alcoholic veteran Lawyer Frank Galvin, as he decides to put his career and reputation and on the line with one last chance to redeem himself. Smelling a cover-up in a medical malpractice case, Galvin is finally compelled to take on the Catholic Church and the medical community after visiting the victim in hospital, refusing an out of court settlement of $300,000. Galvin attempts to salvage his career and self-respect with a case no one thinks he can win, outraging the young woman’s mother who believes the money is enough. It is not enough however for Galvin, who seeks justice for the victim after describing her as a ‘Vegetable’ with no quality of life to speak of.
A clever prelude, as the audience are taking their seats hints at Galvin’s personal turmoil and the mess that his life is in. Sleeping in his unorganised office and waking up hung over. The stage is exposed from the onset and you are compelled to watch a man sleeping in his Boston office, a good way up a tower block. The sets were very visually impressive, flicking between Galvin’s office and Meehan’s Bar in the first half and the stunning courtroom in the second. This 17 strong cast made the play feel full and meant it was well executed.
In this particular show, I wouldn’t say the main character was a standout or the best performance. Ian Kelsey is believable as Frank Galvin, but I wouldn’t say memorable. He lacked a little ‘oomph’ for want of a better word. Not in comparison to Denis Lill who is outstanding as Moe Kats, Galvin’s mentor. He embodies the character in a way that you don’t see how he could be anyone else. Similarly Josephine Rogers gives a captivating performance as Donna St Laurent, the newly employed barmaid at Meehan’s. You can’t take your eyes off her when she’s on stage and has an acting ability that comes as naturally as breathing to her.
The whole audience seemed impressed with the stage set, with audible gasps head as the courtroom as revealed. The show also had frequent comedic moments which were welcome from the serious and sombre nature of the subject matter.
The show isn’t perfect, the beginning is slow off the mark and feels like it’s plodding as it sets everything up, this is forgotten though as it eventually ramps up and the second half is riveting. That being said, it still recommended and well worth a trip out.
Reviewer: Lowri Hiles
Reviewed: 5th March 2019
North West End Rating: ★★★★