EXECUTION OF JUSTICE
by Emily Mann.
Southwark Playhouse Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St and Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 4 February 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat 28 Jan, 4 Feb 3.15pm.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 November.
Prejudice and penury ignite explosive drama.
This is Southwark Playhouse’s last year under the arches of London Bridge station. With work like this, the trains should be re-routed and the theatre stay on.
Emily Mann’s large-scale 1984 play, here reworked, is verbatim theatre, though not as we’ve come to know it. Alongside documentary dialogue comes a structural montage adding its own comment on the trial of Daniel White and its social aftermath.
Mann’s play pleads for an end to the cycle of violence in a society undergoing change. Here the tension sparks as San Francisco’s Irish-descent Roman Catholics see the city being transformed as a magnet for gay people.
In 1975 the old structure gave way. New Mayor George Moscone, the Ken Livingstone of his place and time, introduced a new liberal administration. Among the new councillors (or ‘supervisors’) was Harvey Milk. Hardly the first gay politician, he was the first to be open about his sexuality.
Another supervisor, Dan White, stood for Catholic, family values. But it wasn’t only this that led him to shoot Moscone and Milk. White had resigned as supervisor, realised he couldn’t afford to, then asked for his job back. The killings occurred when it became clear Moscone was veering away from initially positive noises, and Milk lobbying to keep White out.
Philip Duguid-McQuillan’s neatly combed hair and pale complexion, his straight-backed posture sitting at the centre of the strip of stage, make him a powerful, if often silent presence. A double-murderer, the performance still provokes a searing sympathy in White’s break-down during his interview in police custody, when, sobbing and bent-double, he becomes a terrified child whose world has fallen apart, unable to articulate his despair.
Expecting outright victory, Ben Mars’ staid prosecutor has rings run around him by Christopher Lane’s smartly-dressed, tactical buzzfly defence counsel. The two San Franciscos face each other in the uniforms, serious and camp, of policeman and drag queen, orderly court proceedings fragment into snapshots of conflicting professional views and angry witnesses, while fury at the sentence breaks out in video footage as two ideologies react to the actions of a desperate man. Stirring stuff.
Dan White: Philip Duguid-McQuillan.
Mary Ann White: Lindsay Fraser.
Clerk of the Court/Cyr Copertini/Dr Solomon: Kate Harper.
Cop/Carl Henry Carlson/Harry Britt: Peter Wiedmann.
Sister Boom Boom/Richard Pabich/Police Officer Sullivan: Aidan Downing.
Joanna Lu: Joyce Veheary.
Court: Maurice Byrne.
Douglas Schmidt: Christopher Lane.
Thomas Norman: Ben Mars.
Dr Stephens/Joseph Freitas: Jasper Jacob.
Rudy Nothenburg/Lee Dolson/Dr Lunde: John Rayment.
Barbara Taylor/A Mourner/Carol Ruth SilverProspective Juror: Madeleine Bowyer.
Denise Apcar/Young Mother: Georgia Buchan.
Officer Byrne/Gwenn Craig: Catherine Hammond.
William Melia/Edward Erdelaz/Dr Delman/Prospective Juror: Mark Parsons.
Jim Denman/Dr Levy: Michael Shane.
Moscone’s Friend/Dr Jones: Thomas Grube.
Milk’s Friend: Doron Davidson.
Frank Falzon: Aonghus Weber.
Fire Chief Sherratt/Dr Blinder/Jury Foreman/Prospective Juror: Alex McSweeney.
Director: Joss Bennathan.
Designer/Costume: James Turner.
Lighting: Richard Williamson.
Sound: George Dennis.
Projections: Sepehr Malek.