Review: Anatomy of a Murder, Audit House, London

Courtroom dramas can be tricky things to accomplish on stage. In order to keep the audience’s interest, the case concerned must be serious enough, the defendant’s guilt or innocence must be hard to determine – and yet, if we do not feel sympathy for them despite their possible guilt, how are we as an audience ever going to engage with their plight?

Anatomy of a Murder, Elihu Winer’s play based on Robert Traver’s 1958 novel, piques the interest by starting from the premise that there is no doubt that the defendant, army Lieutenant Frederic Manion (George McFadyen) killed Barney Quill, the proprietor of the local inn.But Quill, we are told, had raped Manion’s wife that night. Immediately, our loyalties and a sense of natural justice start muddying the waters – and further murkiness is added as Manion and his fresh-faced lawyer Paul Biegler (Benedict Hastings) work out that Manion’s only defence against a charge of murder will be a plea of insanity.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2011: Henna Night, The Spaces on the Mile

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After one too many bottles of cheap wine, Judith leaves a drunken message on her ex-boyfriend Jack’s answer phone late one night, saying that she’d bought some razor blades and some henna – and come the morning, she’ll have either killed herself, or dyed her hair. When the doorbell rings, it’s not Jack, but his new girlfriend Ros – the replacement. 

Henna Night was one of playwright Amy Rosenthal’s first pieces, and in places it shows. While she has an ear for dialogue and is able to find wry comedy in the darkest of lines, there are places where the gags are a little too frequent and forced, and others where Judith breaks into overlong, overwritten monologue. 

Rather than being a confrontational piece, Rosenthal makes both women ultimately likeable, creating a comedy of awkward manners than anything more explosive. That’s no bad thing, but it makes the whole play risk feeling flat  What saves the whole piece are the two performances from Stephanie James as Judith and, in particular, Lauren Garnham as Ros, who imbue their slight characters with real warmth. 

Edinburgh Fringe 2011: Henna Night, The Spaces on the Mile3Scott Matthewman2011-08-29 10:48:13After one too many bottles of cheap wine, Judith leaves a drunken message on her ex-boyfriend Jack’s answer phone late one night, saying that she’d bo…