Secret Theatre: Trial TV review at Town Hall Theatre – ‘ambitious, but uneven courtroom drama’
Murder trial meets gameshow in Trial TV, the latest piece from immersive performance-makers Secret Theatre. With the audience cast as jurors in a ratings-grabbing triple homicide case, we’re invited to explore a reconstructed crime scene during the show’s freeform opening segment.
Given an elegant minimalist treatment, this set is a blood-splattered multi-storey hotel suite satisfyingly packed with small but significant details to reward the keen eyed.
Meanwhile, a uniformly strong cast circulates freely, smoothly maintaining the balance of drip-feeding plot points, signposting each character’s motivations, and fielding bizarrely tangential questions from the audience.
Rekha John-Cheriyan is steely and commanding as the presiding judge disgusted by the for-profit sideshow her courtroom has become. Harry Oram goes from conspiratorial whispering to indignant speechifying as crusading journalist Sanderson. At the centre of it all, Peter Picton does his best Hannibal Lecter impression as sneeringly superior cannibal psychiatrist Lassiter, amusing himself by playing mind games with his captors.
Once the trial itself begins, though, the intrigue level dips. Director Richard Crawford lets the show’s admittedly interesting ideas sprawl during an uneven and underwritten parade of suspicious witnesses, surprise evidence, and frustratingly unfocused cross-examinations.
When the inevitable twist ending begins to unfold, events take a jarring, gimmicky, but nonetheless welcome turn towards escape room puzzle-solving. Though the delivery is not as slick as it should be, there’s a fun mystery at the show’s heart, couched in a lighthearted critique of our insatiable appetite for sensationalism.
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