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The Trials and Tribulations

The Trials. Photo courtesy of The Criterion Theatre.

The Trials by Dawn King, at The Criterion Theatre, Earlsdon, Coventry until Saturday 13 January 2024.

Directed by Alan Fenn, Co-Director Olivia Simone.

Review by Alison Manning.

The Trials by Dawn King is a thought-provoking and hard-hitting play that follows a group of twelve young people in the near future who are having to judge older people on how they have lived their lives and how much they have contributed to the devasting climate crisis now facing them.

As the generation most affected by the crisis they have been given the power to reach a verdict that will decide the ultimate fate of these “dinosaurs.” For some the decisions seem clear, others find it impossible to choose, but are they being swayed by their own experiences or can they work out how to judge fairly and reach an agreement?

Great performances by the young cast. Photo courtesy of The Criterion Theatre.

The twelve young actors do an exemplary job of portraying the assorted characters who form the jury, dealing with conflicting emotions and priorities. The adult defendants, played by Matt Sweatman, Judi Garland and Jan Nightingale, appear in prerecorded videos on a screen at the back of the auditorium, outlining their defence of how they have lived their lives. This set up did produce a slight crick in the neck, despite the slanted seats, but also reflected the gulf between the affected youngsters and the older generation whose lifestyle decisions, however innocently made, had such devasting consequences on the planet and their children’s lives.

Difficult decisions to be made. Photo courtesy of The Criterion Theatre.

There is some slightly lighter relief where the jury pauses and some of the children make believe things they have never experienced or can no longer remember, such as the chilly delights of snow, and the excitement of flying in an aeroplane. These are briefly joyous scenes against a harsh backdrop. As they learn more about each other, however, and their lives outside the courtroom and their parents, secrets are slowly revealed which head towards a potentially very harrowing conclusion. In the face of inconceivably difficult decisions, who will change their mind and what will they ultimately decide? No major spoilers here, you’ll have to go watch it to find out!

A lighter moment. Photo courtesy of The Criterion Theatre.

There are lessons for all of us in this play, as we listen to stories of lives lead that are probably not too dissimilar from our own, and it leaves us with a lot to think about. Are we too justifying a second car and persisting in taking flights, despite the increasingly incontrovertible evidence that we are on the verge of a climate catastrophe? Should we be going vegan? Are we prioritising the right things for our children? Do they need luxury holidays and a good education or a viable climate and a sustainable planet? Guilty or not guilty? How will the next generation judge us?

All credit to the cast: Ren – Ella Moorley; Noah – Hannah McCabe; Eva – Verity Gillam-Greene; Gabi – Scarlett Moorley; Sam – Anya Coleman; Maz – Caitlyn Brooks; Xander – Ruby Humphrey; Kai – John Powers; Amelia – Daisy Francis; Josh – Josh McCarthy; Zoe – Elizabeth Armstrong; Luna – Leann Williams; Understudy – Eliza Slack; Defendant 1 – Matt Sweatman; Defendant 2 – Judi Garland; Defendant 3 – Jan Nightingale.

Not forgetting the backstage crew: Stage Manager, Alan Fenn, Assistant Stage Manager Hattie Mogan and Prompt Lyra Towey.

The Trials is on at The Criterion Theatre in Earlsdon, Coventry, till Saturday 13 January. More details, including how to buy tickets, can be found here:


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