Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Highly engaging interactive theatre, which places the outcome of a court case involving the alleged rape of a young woman squarely in the hands of the audience. Silence in Court allows audience members to take on the roles of juror and gallery member to take part in the mock trial of Callum Patterson, alleged rapist.
Silence in Court is a fictionalized court case in which the audience take on roles as jurors and spectators in a mock trial set in any court, anywhere, and determine the guilt or innocence of a young man accused of rape. The mechanics of the interactivity, the most (potentially) disruptive aspect of much interactive theatre, work extremely well. The audience are cast, respectively, as members of the gallery, or as jurors (we’re given the choice upon entering the courtroom) and these roles are very easy to inhabit, in contrast to other examples of this genre where we may be asked to take on past lives we haven’t lived. The transition from real life to participant is seamless and un-troubling. We will listen to the arguments and cross-examinations presented by both sides, deliberate amongst ourselves, and deliver a verdict. But while the vehicle for the drama is easy and unambiguous, the interior of the drama itself, its motivations, and outcome, are anything but.
A surprising amount of theatre deals with rape, and it’s a delicate subject that is handled to varying degrees of sensitivity across the medium. In Silence in Court, this subject isn’t always handled with the delicacy one might hope for (as an example, Jennifer, the complainer, is playfully admonished by the judge for her initially frank description of the encounter as she gives her evidence). Nevertheless, Silence in Court opens a dialogue with (and amongst) its audience on the topic: how we react to such allegations, how they are handled by the justice system, and how we arrive at conclusions.
She is a slight, petit blonde woman in conservative dress, her face often contorted by anxiety and the tearful recollections of her experience. He is fresh-faced, smartly dressed, and looking for all the world like a young man starting his first internship at some high-powered City brokerage. Both offer compelling testimony and both live utterly within the skins of their characters. He is glancing nervously across the room at her; she, shivering, avoids his gaze. The clock on the mantle in the parquetted room ticks loudly in the brief silences, the flocked wallpaper oppresses. The two attorneys skilfully battle, the judge sternly looks on, intervening where necessary, and the jury are told that they must, to a man, make a decision that will destroy one of these two lives.
Because of the interactive nature of the show, the outcome will always be different, and each experience is going to be unique. We find ourselves suddenly dropped into a set of circumstances, forced to make decisions and judgements, and then dismissed. And while this opens the floor for debate and gets us talking (I overheard two of the ‘jurors’ animatedly discussing the case in the gents after the show) I do find myself wanting some indication of emeraldBLUE’s stance on the issues they raise so effectively.
This show triumphs in a lot of ways – the acting is fantastic (the two attorneys in particular attack their roles tenaciously and unflinchingly), the design flawless (and the choice of venue perfect), and the subject provocative, and I am still navigating my way through the aftermath of the experience. As interactive experiences go, Silence in Court is a knock-out success. As an audience, it gets us talking, and that may be this ambitious company’s point.