by Tess Berry-Hart.

King’s Head Theatre 115 Upper Street London N1 1QN To 31 March 2012.
Tue–Sat 7.15pm Sun – 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.

TICKETS: 0207 478 0160.
Review: William Russell 10 March.

Dramatic fight for Justice.
Sam Hallam has spent the last seven years in prison, convicted of murder at 17 for his part in the killing of a young man in Finsbury by youths from nearby Hoxton. He has denied he was there, the evidence against him was distinctly flimsy by any standards, the police investigation was poorly done as a later review reported, and last year the case was sent back to the Court of Appeal on the recommendation of the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Sam’s appeal will be heard in May. King’s Head Director David Mercatali and writer Tess Berry-Hart have produced a verbatim piece – everything comes from police interviews, court transcripts or independent interviews – which highlights the case for his innocence. Be that as it may. Is it good theatre?

The answer is undoubtedly in the affirmative. They have come up with a gripping tale of what happened to a teenager, not particularly bright, but with no past record of any kind, when people started to talk about the killing, rumours spread, names got suggested, speculation became accepted fact. It could happen to anyone.

Sam’s story is finely acted by the ensemble cast. Robin Crouch is a touching Sam, maybe a little thick, a boy who baby-sits, visits his Nan, works as a carpet fitter for his Dad when the work is there, and leads a pretty humdrum life. As the activist, Paul May, who took up his cause, Keith Hill is a lucid and convincing narrator.

There are weaknesses. A non-verbatim play might have fleshed the characters out more, have given more information about Sam and his family – his mother, a nervous soul, is one of those women whose first instinct is to run from anything unpleasant, his father, after the conviction, killed himself.

Every now and then one wants to know more, which, for legal reasons perhaps we cannot know. We are, however, taken completely into a world of people, not very well-educated, not, sometimes, all that clever, people don’t trust authority, don’t handle words well, and who get confused when lawyers start asking them questions and don’t understand their replies.

Sam Hallam: Robin Crouch.
Paul May: Keith Hill.
Ensemble: Debra Baker, Clare Cameron, Alexander Gatehouse, Vincent Jerome, Bradley Taylor.

Director: David Mercatali.
Designer: Gregor Donnelly.
Lighting: Richard Williamson.

2012-03-12 08:15:46

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