Review: The Verdict, New Theatre, Cardiff

Thomas Howells reviews The Verdict starring Jason Merrells at Cardiff’s New Theatre.

Intense. Dramatic. The only words to describe the newly stage adapted courtroom thriller – The Verdict, which plays Cardiff’s New Theatre this week.

The Verdict based on Barry Reed’s book, follows Frank Galvin is an alcoholic lawyer who has been given a last chance to redeem himself. He is assigned to work on an open-and-shut medical malpractice case, but no one believes that he can win. Galvin courageously decides to take the case to court, believing that the negligence of the medical establishment was responsible for the death of a young mother. He suspects a cover-up and is determined to bring the truth to light.

I’ve seen four Middle Ground Theatre Company productions and each one has been excellent. The company’s trademark dramatic style is something I was really looking forward to and it did not disappoint.

Jason Merrells stars in The Verdict which runs at Cardiff’s New Theatre from January 24 to 28.
Jason Merrells stars in The Verdict which runs at Cardiff’s New Theatre from January 24 to 28.

The first thing I loved about the play was the beautiful natural setting. On the right side of the stage, you had Galvin’s office, which had a lot of dull and empty colours that I felt were reflected in his depressed and tired personality – a perfect design for a washed-up veteran lawyer like himself. Meanwhile, on the left side of the stage there stood an Irish bar which plays a major role in the first act and serves to set the grounds for the second act. The entire set was heavily cluttered in a great and natural way that I found to be very effective in immersing the audience. Of course, this was not the same in the more formal courtroom setting of the second act which was clean – beautifully designed and lit up and nothing short of perfect for the performance.

In my opinion, a lot of the first act exists solely to set us up for the second, which does make sense, but at times did make it feel a bit slow. The second act, however is designed for audience retention and immersion. You are put in the place of the jury so when the actors speak, they speak to you. For me, that really grabbed me and brought this theatre experience together, putting The Verdict above any courtroom drama on TV.

Something I appreciated in the first act was the repeated use of a soundscape in the backdrop to properly immerse the audience in the performance – hearing birds tweeting and cars driving at the start very much stood out to me.

It would be amiss to not comment on the cast, particularly Richard Walsh who portrayed both Bishop Brophy and Eldredge Sweeney. Jason Merrells is outstanding as Frank Galvin, from the moment he staggers on stage in a pre-show drunken stupor you see his character develop and build in conviction and confidence in his case. But overall, the acting was incredible and nothing short of gripping from every member of the cast.

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