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The Justice Syndicate review at Sheriff Court, Dundee – ‘enthralling courtroom simulation’

The Justice Syndicate at Sheriff Court, Dundee. Photo: Drew Farrell
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Taking place as part of the annual NEoN (North East of North) Digital Arts Festival in the Scottish tech and design industries hub of Dundee, Citizen of Nowhere is a weekend-long festival sub-strand co-curated by National Theatre of Scotland artistic director Jackie Wylie and William Galinsky of GalinskyWorks.

Inspired by Theresa May’s infamous “if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere” quote, the mission of this festival was to explore the current landscape of social fragmentation and rapid technological change through experiments in non-traditional theatre forms.

Created by Dan Barnard and Rachel Briscoe’s Newcastle-based “recovering theatre company” Fanshen (which specialises in works involving performance, game and installation), The Justice Syndicate was the most compelling of the pieces on offer. Set in the jury room of Dundee Sheriff Court, it involves an audience of up to 12, who also perform the parts of the jury in a very conflicting trial.

Through the synced-up iPads and speakers before them, the audience are told of the trial of Dr Simon Huxtable, a world-renowned cancer surgeon whose success rates in treating children are unparalleled; accusing him of attempted rape is Sally, the mother of one of the children he treated, whose home he visited late one evening to deliver a birthday gift.

Through constructed documents and testimony performed by actors, we learn both of his interest in sadistic sexual chat online and her reputation as a promiscuous drinker. Given plenty of opportunity to discuss, to vote upon the verdict and to expel one of our colleagues, this finely-tuned simulation is thrilling – and hopefully enlightening to all, when it becomes apparent that what has really been on trial are our own susceptibilities to suggestion, moral groupthink and manufactured opinion.

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Enthralling courtroom simulation which cuts to the heart of what it is to be an informed voter