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Jury's out on this courtroom drama

The Verdict, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, to Feb 2.

Barry Reed's novel was turned into a highly successful film in 1982 - the screenplay was judged to be among the 100 best ever written - and now it has been adapted for the stage by the Middle Ground Theatre Company.

It tells the story of US attorney Frank Galvin who takes on a big malpractice case after a young mother is left brain dead due to hospital negligence. The play is set in Galvin’s fifth floor run-down office in snowy Boston where he learns about his client Mrs McDaid (Anne Kavanagh) the mother of the tragic victim of the story. She’s battling to get justice for her daughter, while Galvin’s priorities seem to be centred around the whiskey bottle. Galvin is played by Ian Kelsey famous for his roles in Coronation Street, Doctors, Casualty, Emmerdale and many other TV programmes. However, this role I felt, didn’t show off his acting talents, as the quietly spoken, "head in hands" character of Galvin was pretty dull – until the second act, and the courtroom drama, when his dynamic personality comes to the fore. His business mentor, Moe Katz played by Denis Lill brings some light-hearted moments to the three-hour production, and Josephine Rogers plays Donna St Laurent, the new barmaid at Galvin’s local – again, another softly-spoken character.

Someone who certainly didn’t believe in keeping quiet was J Edgar Concannon, attorney at law, who goes head-to-head with Galvin in the courtroom. Concannon is excellently played by Christopher Ettridge, whose career covers stage, TV, film and directing. This is a play full of dialogue and the cast deliver their lines faultlessly. But with little action going on, it’s a case of listening quite intently at times, particularly in the first act which does come across very softly. Oddly, some of the sound effects, including people on the other end of telephone conversations, are much louder than the actors. I felt there were one or two holes in the plot, and sadly there seems little reason for us to be rooting for Frank Galvin to win his case as any compassion he has for the injured party appears to take second or third place to booze and women.

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